Socialist Worker

Education farce is at its best when it’s at its least serious

Some important issues are glossed over in a new play. But that does not stop the gags and performances from landing home, writes?Sam Lorde

Issue No. 2601

The cast of Education, Education, Education perform at the Edinburgh Fringe

The cast of Education, Education, Education perform at the Edinburgh Fringe (Pic: The Other Richard)


This play is for people who want an intravenous shot of nostalgia for the 1990s.

Education, Education, Education is half farce, half state of the nation commentary through the prism of education.

It is well acted and choreographed and packed full of witty one-liners. Some of the comedy is very physical and linked closely to the choice of music.

The action takes place the day after New Labour’s election victory in 1997. The characters jubilate over the prospect of increased education funding.

Meanwhile, chaos reigns. A student is barred from a school trip and launches a campaign of protest, petitioning and fighting to challenge the decision.

Teachers are depicted as morally conflicted over whether to discipline or encourage students.

We get a sense of the ideological underpinnings of the play when the narrator—a German teacher—extols the virtues of the design of the German Bundestag compared to the British parliament.

Much is made of the Bundestag’s glass dome. Through this the public can view politicians.

We are told this means the German parliament is more open and democratic compared to the austere British parliament.

Wide-eyed

That may be the PR reason given for the Bundestag refurb, but the reality is so wide-eyed liberals can make exactly the kind of point the play does.

The metaphor of a glass ceiling would be more appropriate. Political allegory is not the play’s strong suit.

The audience is treated to a potted history of education policy from 1997 to the present day which attacks the Tories. It glosses over the Labour cuts and PFI deals that had a devastating impact.

Each one of the more important themes the play picks up on could be developed a lot more—the question of discipline in education, for instance.

Education, Education, Education doesn’t really know what kind of play it wants to be. That means it can skit about without focus.

It is enjoyable, though, and genuinely funny in places—but go for the farcical nostalgia trip, not in the hope of seeing something profound.

Education, Education, Education is on national tour until 8 June.
Go to thewardrobeensemble.com for dates and tickets

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