“All the actors were phenomenal and everyone in this show should be proud of what they have achieved”

It’s May 1997. Tony Blair has won the election and Katrina and the Waves have won Eurovision. Channel 5 is a month old. No one knows who Harry Potter is. Britain is the coolest place in the world. Castle Theatre Company, in conjunction with the 93% club, put on a truthful and thoroughly engaging performance of Education Education Education. The tone was set as the audience was entering from some of the top tunes of the 90s and the music inspired set design immediately immersed the audience in the time period. This show was serious at times but always managed to hit the moments of comedy and get the audience laughing again. Aside from a few minor technical issues, this show is a well-executed and thoughtful performance.

I felt every single actor was true to their character and manged to convey a believable narrative and well thought out backstories. Every actor managed to keep the audience engaged and each one handled the comedy very well. Particular credits go to Sam Pesez, playing main character Tobias. Although his German accent faltered minorly in places, he managed to keep up the act of an excitable and bubbly teaching assistant new to the school. As the narrator of the show, he kept the audience engaged from the first moment to the last and in the more heartfelt moments had us all moved; I found myself questioning my own secondary school experience and how I will live my life in the future. Zara Stokes Neustadt as Sue was also another standout performer, her character so multidimensional and every aspect being wonderfully portrayed. I would love to give a shoutout to each actor individually as they were all truly talented and every line was so slickly and confidently delivered. From Richard Griffiths and his unfaltering passion and fully believable role as that mean teacher you’re terrified to annoy to Karis Rable and her ability to multirole and maintain such dry humour, everyone in this cast was perfect. Therefore a massive well done to co-directors Natalie Ho and Sarah Kelly for assembling this wonderful cast and for the wonderful staging. It was evident that so much care and thought had gone into the directorial process and the work with the actors. 

The set was simple but effective with two panels displaying things one would usually find in a school staff room, mixed in with some 90s memorabilia to immediately ensure the audience knew where they were and when. The main set piece, a door on wheels, was well utilised to change scene locations. Unfortunately at times the door didn’t stay shut which made a few transitions a bit clunky and seemed to initially throw off a couple of the actors but they quickly adapted and made sure it didn’t affect the flow of the show. The lighting was also particularly effective at creating location, especially in a split scene where two conversations were happening at once; the lighting really helped to divide the scene effectively and the transitions were speedy and well done. At times when the actors were standing down stage left and it was the only place to be lit, the light was in such a position that their entire faces were in shadows making it hard to see the actors’ expressions. The music was made up of iconic tunes from the 90s and the moments of dance were comedic and delightful. However a few moments where characters were talking over the music, it was too loud so it was hard to catch all of the lines and when you could it felt as if the actors were practically shouting to make themselves heard. These moments were few and far between and didn’t really detract from the overall vibe.

This show is a social commentary on funding for education and with the ongoing strikes is a particularly relevant play and well worth a watch. All the actors were phenomenal and everyone in this show should be proud of what they have achieved. The aim of this show was to provide more artistic opportunities for students from state schools and an aim to get at least 93% of the cast to be from state schools. With only one member of the cast and crew from a private school this was fully achieved. This show is funny and heart-breaking and reminded the audience of the dire state of our government and education system nowadays and how things have declined since 1997.

By Bethan Avery

Education Education Education is performing at the Assembly Rooms Theatre until the 11th February

Photo Credits: Castle Theatre Company