Where to begin with Education, Education, Education, Wardrobe Ensemble’s love letter to school in the 90s? It’s brilliant – that’s a good place to start. Focusing in on a chaotic muck-up day at a fictional secondary school – which is less than perfect – Wardrobe Ensemble has created a truly unique, touching yet light-hearted show, perfectly distilling the 90s zeitgeist yet managing to ring true today.
It’s the Year 11’s final day at school, which means antics are rife. It also happens to be the day after Tony Blair’s election win, and when the teachers aren’t preoccupied planning the prize- giving assembly or trying to keep the kids under control, they speculate what this new win might mean for them.
The storytelling is a delectably jarring mix of relatable and larger-than- life, a cartoonish and almost cinematic view of the education system in the 90s, and yet oddly well-observed and true to life. It’s nostalgic without being rose-tinted, because it acknowledges how many of the issues affecting its protagonists – a lack of funding, an often closed-minded curriculum, the struggle of students from difficult backgrounds to succeed – are still prevalent today.
A couple of the issues – keeping your Tamagotchi alive, for example – are obviously redundant now, but that’s what makes Education, Education, Education so exciting. It expertly treads the balance between making nostalgic references (Titanic, shag bands, Blair, and the aforementioned Tamagotchi all feature) without simply pointing and speaking. Each of these little 90s nuggets has a reason to be there, and almost certainly a personal one, as we are reminded by the projections of the cast’s old school photos above the action.
The characters are beautifully realised, from a well-meaning yet slightly out-of-touch English teacher to the abrasive and overly optimistic headmaster, from the aggressive no-nonsense Head of Discipline to the blunt, deadpan, utterly hilarious teacher-come-narrator of the story. The ensemble cast multi-role with ease, populating the play with a whole host of teachers and pupils alike. Education, Education, Education, then, is a perfectly-formed, retro gem of a show – top marks all round.