May 1997 was a very long time ago. A time when it looked, politically, like the country had turned a positive corner. A time of Blur, Oasis, Spice Girls and Eurovision-winning music for the
The Wardrobe Ensemble have been slowly building up a reputation of success in
Stylistically the show is exuberant. The hits of the era are pumped out (I confess my head bobbed along for much of the play), costume changes are done at lightning speed, and all the set is moveable, including the wheeled school chairs and tables (ingenious). It is apparent that the show has been workshopped and performed extensively, gaining an impressive pace, though this can lead to an overwhelming viewing experience. This is one show where the volume rarely drops.
The mightily impressive ensemble is elevated by the presence of two outstanding performances. Emily Greenslade's troubled student has real impact and manages to rise above a potentially stereotypical rendition of a teenager, finding real pathos behind her character. James Newton's Tobias is both the audience's route into the school as well their guide to proceedings. A newly arrived German language assistant, he offers both a distinctive outside voice, informing us of his love for British culture whilst also cutting through the noise of proceedings and simplifying the messages of the play. He is a fabulous addition, exquisitely played by
I found myself moved at the end of Education, Education, Education, despite of a final third that feels rushed and in search of a climax. The false hope of the era has a devastating impact when looked back through the bleary eyes of 2017. It is what cuts through the noise and drama of a day at school. That for one brief moment things could only get better.