Who's Afraid of Michael Gove?

The Tories have take control and Michael Gove is Prime Minister. With the zeal of a dictator he is now able to complete unfinished business from his days as Secretary of State for Education and ensure that a utilitarian curriculum serving the economic and industrial needs of society is properly enforced and maintained. Meanwhile Boris Johnson has been given his own TV chat show.

Six in the Shed from St Edward’s School, Oxford has done a fine job in bringing together this timely reminder of the value of the arts and the importance of theatre.

Gove receives a boost to his policies when the UK comes top in the Pisa Rankings, beating traditionally high-achieving nations such as China, which convinces him that he has been right all along and as he reminds us, there is nothing he loves more than facts and being right. The somewhat surprising ecclesiastical opening to the production soon makes sense when we find out the boys are actually rehearsing a play which provides the context for a wider debate about the place of the arts in society and the chance to counter Gove’s claim that they serve no purpose.

The production is fast-moving and very funny. The cast of six performs with abundant confidence and knows how to deliver lines clearly, with perfect timing and looks. Facial expressions are central to David Kelly’s performance as Gove. He has features that contort hilariously during bouts of fiery, impassioned rhetoric. Amongst many comical scenes his interview with Boris particularly stands out. Theo Smith makes a bounding entrance with his own blonde hair all over the place and he has the audience in stitches. He later pairs up with Rufus McGrath and the two resting actors on the park bench, ironically come up with a theatrical answer to save Michael Gove from a highly embarrassing trousers-down incident. Oscar Albert plays Laurence, the son, to Theo’s contrasting role as a wealthy father. Laurence has graduated but is out of work. Having been educated as one of “Gove’s robots” his father packs him off to the local drama group to develop social skills. Oscar does a great job as the reluctant thespian and shows that in his own right he is no amateur on stage, providing more priceless scenes. Each member of the cast demonstrates multi-roling versatility and the ability to create characters.

Six in the Shed from St Edward’s School, Oxford has done a fine job in bringing together this timely reminder of the value of the arts and the importance of theatre. There is nothing finer than humour to show up the madness of policies taken to the extreme and this lively group has it in abundance. With such accomplished performers as these and writer-directors like Simon Roche, the theatre of the future is in safe hands. 

Reviews by Richard Beck


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The Blurb

Imagine a future in which Michael Gove is Prime Minister and all his madcap educational policies have come true. Now imagine him with his trousers down. Both of these scenarios are terrifyingly plausible and are hilariously brought to life by this talented young company. Following a sell-out run in 2013, Six in the Shed are back with a biting political satire that has Gove firmly in its sights. ‘An impressive young cast take charge ... professional and remarkably accomplished’ **** (BroadwayBaby.com). ‘Talented young actors... What a treat’ (James Naughtie, BBC Today Programme).