Back to School

We file in crocodile formation from the Pleasance, clutching a collective length of rope to keep together. We’re shepherded by two lollipop ladies who urge us to sing the St Dumbledyke’s school song and hurry up or we’ll miss assembly.

Having arrived at the Braidwood Centre we’re shepherded through a school day which is also an entire career; we arrive for our first day at Big School and leave clutching our exam results. Divided into forms, we do PE, food appreciation, science, art. We have school dinner - or not, this is an academy. We pose for the school photo.

This is an entirely interactive, site-specific piece. However, the devisers are canny enough to know audiences can be rubbish at playing their part, so they have built in plot-lines, dotty school teachers interacting and actors playing one or two pupils to keep the thing bubbling along.

The Centre has been decorated like any ghastly school and it’s a real labour of love. From the inspirational quotes from Margaret Thatcher to the graffiti on the ‘Worried about pregnancy?’ notice, it teems with invention and detail and it is only a pity that we never get the time to take it all in.

It’s largely very genial and safe. You can be assured that Miss Jaffa won’t rap your knuckles with a ruler and you won’t be subjected to homophobic bullying. However, there is a sprinkling of grit as well, mainly at the expense of academies. The new headmistress, Miss Wade, is a failed candidate on The Apprentice, but this doesn’t prevent her spouting the meaningless aspirational clichés of her kind: ‘School is for achieving goals to make us better, richer.’ Lunch consists of a visit to the overpriced school tuck shop where you can buy Irn Bru and teeth-rotting sweets under a photo of Jamie Oliver covered with kisses.

It’s the sort of show where the more you put in, the more you’ll get out of it. It is not for shrinking violets or the easily embarrassed. If it is your bag, be advised of two things. It’s about 1hr 45mins long, though it seems a lot less. Also, before you go it might be worth thinking about what kind of pupil you want to be. The actors can take pretty much anything you throw at them, so throw with relish. They’ll thank you for it and maybe even give you a school prize.

Reviews by Peter Scott-Presland

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★★★
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★★★
Southwark Playhouse

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★★★★
Rosemary Branch Theatre

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★★★
Southwark Playhouse

In The Heights

★★★★

Since you’re here…

… we have a small favour to ask. We don't want your money to support a hack's bar bill at Abattoir, but if you have a pound or two spare, we really encourage you to support a good cause. If this review has either helped you discover a gem or avoid a turkey, consider doing some good that will really make a difference.

You can donate to the charity of your choice, but if you're looking for inspiration, there are three charities we really like.

Mama Biashara
Kate Copstick’s charity, Mama Biashara, works with the poorest and most marginalised people in Kenya. They give grants to set up small, sustainable businesses that bring financial independence and security. That five quid you spend on a large glass of House White? They can save someone’s life with that. And the money for a pair of Air Jordans? Will take four women and their fifteen children away from a man who is raping them and into a new life with a moneymaking business for Mum and happiness for the kids.
Donate to Mama Biashara now

Theatre MAD
The Make A Difference Trust fights HIV & AIDS one stage at a time. Their UK and International grant-making strategy is based on five criteria that raise awareness, educate, and provide care and support for the most vulnerable in society. A host of fundraising events, including Bucket Collections, Late Night Cabarets, West End Eurovision, West End Bares and A West End Christmas continue to raise funds for projects both in the UK and Sub-Saharan Africa.
Donate to Theatre MAD now

Acting For Others
Acting for Others provides financial and emotional support to all theatre workers in times of need through the 14 member charities. During the COVID-19 crisis Acting for Others have raised over £1.7m to support theatre workers affected by the pandemic.
Donate to Acting For Others now

The Blurb

Relive your student days and return to the 80s in this site-specific, interactive comedy. You'll receive a top-notch education with life-drawing classes, school hamsters ready for dissection and school dinners that'd make Jamie Oliver weep. www.backtoschooledinburgh.com.

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