By Kabejja Ganya
Named after Tony Blair’s saying about his priorities after the 1997 election, the play Education, Education, Education takes us back to look at what we thought to be the “glory days.” The 90s as our dear narrator was the era of Cool Britannia, sporting success (kind of) and a new hopeful, youthful PM at Downing Street. Education, Education, Education is on the one hand, a piece of pure 90s nostalgia, a love to those times. The show is filled to the brim with pop culture references and music. I cannot deny that I was often dancing in my seat throughout the performance, since I know and love many of the songs that came up. And like me, at a number of points, the actors did some hilarious dances as well. I feel like this show was a musical, and, there was so much joy thanks to the music. I do have a favourite musical part of the show that I found remarkably clever, and that was right at the end. It was the song, ‘Things can only get better’ by Dream which all the actors dance to at the end of the show. The song is of course a song of hope, but I also found it quite ironic as it does not fit the play’s school’s future and many real-life schools. However I think that the presence of the song at the end is there to remind us to keep the hope for change despite everything that has happened.
On the other hand, the play also operates as an examination of the nature of the British Education System, with the story being told mostly from a teacher’s perspective. We witness the everyday struggles of teachers closely and intimately through the show, something that I would say is rarely is depicted in the majority of shows. Throughout the show, there are also some notable critiques of the system and one of them really resonated with me. It was when the school’s future was foretold, the school gains more money and gets a new building but over time the school becomes an academy , the funding dries up and the school ends up closing. For me, this future was my past at secondary school, many schools like my own faced the difficulties that this fictional school did.
Other aspects of the show that were so enjoyable included the use of the props and the great performances from the entire cast. The use of props helped to break the limitations of the stage in a smart, playful way. The introduction tour through the school is a brilliant example of this. It was a delight to watch, the cast used moving doors and went around in a circle as the actors jumped through them. It did certainly create the sense of a tour and it helped to make the show truly immersive. There is also the skilful acting by the whole cast who had to play both students and teachers. They were able to make the two characters each were playing distinct so we as an audience knew the differences between them. Furthermore the performances helped to make the characters feel so alive and so real and relatable. I really feel that certain characters resemble some of the teachers I had at school and I am sure that others in the audience did too, creating greater depth to the show. This show is supposed to be a love letter to teachers and I definitely think that the show fulfilled that brief with its characters who were all well written, layered characters with hopes, loves and fears. While I was not alive in 1997, Education, Education, Education really resonated with me and it was a wonderful experience that was quite unforgettable.