Remember what it felt like to be in high school? Everyone was against you, failing an exam meant the end of your life and attendance on school trips was the be all end all. The Wardrobe Ensemble’s Education, Education, Education (named after Tony Blair’s own mantra) captures this with vigour. From the obsession that comes with looking after a tamagotchi to endlessly seeing life as unfair, Education reverses back time to 1997 when England was seemingly looking up and we were all beginning to grow up.
Our narrator is found in the form of a temporary German language assistant, Tobias (James Newton), who is excited at the chance to delve into a quintessential english life. The music, the politics, the culture! What else could a foreign exchange ask for? Yet, the play is filled with irony. Eurovision has just taken place, England has even won, and Tony Blair was last night elected Prime Minister, there’s even talk that by 2020 England could become a European superpower state. We all laugh.
The audience follows a group of mismatched teachers all struggling to battle against a lack of Government funding, there’s the angry one intent on commanding discipline, the weak but optimistic one, the one with the vendetta, and the soft Welsh Head who just wants to do right by the students. It is all eerily familiar.
The real life of the school comes from one student. Emily (played by the lively Emily Greenslade) is a misunderstood, rowdy young girl who can’t seem to catch a break. She delivers an erratically brilliant monologue expressing the inadequacies of the school system, dwelling on sentiments that remain very much present even when, over ten years later, I attended highschool.
The integration of physical theatre is delightful to watch. The cast are chaotically rampant, awkwardly overzealous at times, and while some attempts to be funnier than is perhaps capable for a bunch of sub-par teachers miss the mark they form a cohesive unit where passion is definitely not lacking.
Education, Education, Education dwells in the tailspin that is the current English climate. Yet, none of this is new. There are no hidden secrets dramatically revealed. Instead, it lays off some well known home truths, relying heavily on the audience’s familiarity with both past and present politics. While the nostalgia is a comforting presence it relies on a need to reminisce, and I cannot help but think that for a politically charged play its influence is lacklustre.
Education, Education, Education is playing Trafalgar Studios until 29 June. For more information and tickets, see the Trafalgar Studios website.