'And though she be but little, she is fierce' Act III, Scene II, A Midsummer Night's Dream
Set 20 years ago just after Tony Blair’s landslide victory, Education Education Education examines the impact of Blair’s education policies on the British school system. Performed at The Bristol Old Vic, the play takes the form of a day at school from the perspective of a new German language assistant. Yet despite the production's political elements, it is ultimately a comedy filled with fun, playful musical interludes and lots of dancing. As the performance begins, James Newton- playing the German assistant Tobias- addresses the audience, breaking the third wall and instructing the technician to play Take That. This light-hearted banter continues throughout the play; the witty and sarcastic remarks and observations on the British educational system have the audience in stitches from the get go.
Next, the audience is introduced to five different teachers: each an easily recognisable and identifiable stereotype. These include the strict and results-orientated teacher, the eccentric and loveable Headmaster, and the holistic Drama/English teacher. We are taken on a tour of the school with Tobias and the Headmaster Mr Mills; as we move from classroom to classroom, nostalgic music from the 90’s blares- transporting us back to a different era.
The plot develops as the ‘difficult’ student Emily struggles to express herself at school. This is performed via a combination of a backdrop of school photos of the cast, Tobias’ reflective monologues and a constant soundtrack of 90s songs. All this draws parallels with current feelings of frustration at censorship and limited expression in the face of vast political change. Emphasising the difficulties of growing up and learning to take responsibility, the audience is also reminded of the immense opportunities we have to become whatever and whoever we want to be. It also stresses the importance of unity and social collective action, which was a key motive during the 90s with its strong labour government.
Education, Education, Education is an enhanced version of your favourite sitcom: familiar and honest as well as mischievous and fun. This is down to the incredibly talented cast who have boundless energy and bounce off one another throughout the performance, drawing on personal memories and experiences to bring the show to life. Meanwhile the audience is encouraged to reminisce about simpler times, back when their worries were confined to the health of their Tamagotchi!
Alissa Juliette, Economics and Politics student