The Wardrobe Ensemble returns to the Fringe festival with a fast-paced and incredibly entertaining look at the education system in Britain
Wonderfully produced, insightful and intelligent love letter to Britpop nostalgia and the schools we grew up with.
The play focuses on the last day of school at a local comprehensive a day before study leave and after New Labour's landslide electoral victory, and examines the trials and tribulations of staff and students as they hope the new government will bring salvation to them both professionally and personally.
The play is immediately striking in its visuals and its energy. The story races along at an incredible pace with each of the cast bringing an infinite supply of enthusiasm and charm as they navigate stunning movement set pieces in complete unison. Demonstrating the restless energy and constant motion of a school that is both understaffed and underfunded.
The show does a wonderful job of using these high bursts of intensity to its advantage, spacing them out well and using them to contrast quieter more character focused movements that touch on the key themes of the play. Indeed the cast does a fabulous job of switching between madcap physical antics and pointed moments of vulnerability and fear, where the characters wrestle with the deep questions of what exactly the point of the education system is.
It is these quieter moments that really make the play, and it is all the more interesting that the show places it’’s focus on the teachers rather than students. Asking what stake they have in their positions and, even more interestingly, how the mechanics of the education system control and teach them as much if not more than the students themselves. Yet despite this the show never gets too self-important or heavy, and is always able to balance more serious moments with brilliant pieces of comedy that left the audience in stitches.
The only really problem the show creates is when it attempts to draw parallels between the late 90s setting and the devastation of austerity that has crippled the modern British education system. These are well meaning but very clumsy in their execution, coming off as a tad ham-fisted and out of step with the rest of the performance.
Despite this The Wardrobe Ensemble should be commended for this wonderfully produced, insightful and intelligent love letter to Britpop nostalgia and the schools we grew up with.