Review: Shoreditch Town Hall, Education, Education, Education
PUBLISHED: 14:01 25 April 2018
Blair-era school saga soars with tight ensemble work
Education, Education, Education
Shoreditch Town Hall
Set in the giddy aftermath of New Labour’s election to power, when the perma-grinned spectacle of Tony Blair beamed from every newspaper and television screen, Edinburgh Fringe festival award-winner Education, Education, Education brings its Britpop-heavy soundtrack to an East London stage.
Set in an English secondary school and commencing with a brokering of the 4th wall by newly appointed German teacher, Tobias (who is played with mirth-inducing, albeit politically-incorrect, stereotyping by James Newton), audiences are encouraged to dial back their memory to the heady days of cultural buoyancy that was the order of the day in May 1997.
Matters play out over the course of a single day. As an ensemble, our first encounter is with a gaggle of teachers in the staff room. The mood is upbeat, and the teachers themselves are a melting pot; consisting of wide-eyed idealists, didactic militants and measured realists, all trying to temper one another with a dose of their own particular brand of mental medicine.
The seesaw dynamic between them is realised wonderfully, told as it is through whip-smart badinage and expertly-executed choreography. It is thunderously entertaining, and it is during these moments that Education, Education, Education truly soars.
The main body of the narrative, however, rests with recalcitrant Year-9er Emily Greenslade: a troublemaker insolent of tongue and handy of fist. As the day unfolds, her state of mind unravels and events spiral out of hand. Sadly, this aspect is far more hackneyed; lacking the punchy personality that hallmarks other aspects of this work.
Furthermore, whilst the Cool Britannia time period is brandished heavily, keen observers on the concept of continuity will note several betrayals of the era in respect of the music, as some songs certainly post-date 1997, which is a clumsy and unnecessary error, for sure.
That said; this production is a riotous feast for the senses, with attention being pulled left, right and centre. Whilst the story might not elicit much in the way of a neuron workout, the sheer ebullience, flawless performances and consummate direction of Education, Education, Education ensures that it fixes one of those perma-grins firmly and squarely on the audience’s face.