The Wardrobe Ensemble excels at taking specific cultural moments and unpacking them. In Education Education Education the company flashes back to 1997 in the days after New Labour’s election win to explore the ways state education has changed over the intervening years.
This is time-capsule theatre. If you went to school in the 1990s, the show is gift-wrapped in a Cool Britannia bow. Though it’s crammed with Tamogotchis, Teletubbies references and jokes about Take That, it’s far more than just an exercise in nostalgia. The company gently subverts expectations in the way it deploys the iconic imagery and songs of the era.
The show presents us with a cross-section of characters from both sides of the staffroom door: the bright but volatile kid, the severe German teacher, the well-intentioned headmaster and the teacher who wants the best for her students but struggles to discipline them.
As in the company’s previous work, world-building is a real strength and the attention to detail is impressive. While it takes a while for the narrative to assert itself, it’s never less than engaging.
This is an incredibly polished piece of theatre. The ensemble work is typically tight, the dance routines slick, the comic timing precise and the production values high. And while it generates warmth in the way that familiar things do, there’s also a melancholic edge to it, a sense of a world lost.