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"A pop-culture-filled, laugh a minute, sprint through a 1997 comprehensive school" - an interview with Jesse Jones and Helena Middleton, directors behind Education, Eductaion, Education

Photo credit: Graeme Braidwood

It’s May 1997. The iPhone doesn’t exist, no one knows who Harry Potter is, Titanic is on the shelves of every Blockbuster and we have just won Eurovision. Britain is the coolest place in the world.

Acclaimed theatre company The Wardrobe Ensemble, in co-production with Royal & Derngate, Northampton, and Shoreditch Town Hall, are bringing their Scotsman Fringe First Award and Stage Edinburgh Award winning smash-hit production Education, Education, Education to London’s West End this summer.

Education, Education, Education throws audiences back to the 90s using The Wardrobe Ensemble’s singular style of irreverent humour and inventive theatricality to dissect education and responsibility at the dawn of Blair’s Britain in 1997.

This whip-smart show is a love letter to education in the 90s and is jam-packed with more hits than ‘Now That’s What I Call 1997’ including Oasis, Katrina and the Waves, The Spice Girls. Crammed with Teletubbies references, jokes about Take That and the Macarena, Education, Education, Education plays at the Trafalgar Studios from 31 May – 29 June.

Directors of Education, Education, Education, Jesse Jones and Helena Middleton, talk to Run-Riot ahead of the show’s arrival in London.

Education, Education, Education had a highly successful run in Edinburgh in 2017, how does it feel as a young emerging company to now be bringing your work to London’s West End?    

Brilliant, surreal, exciting, scary! We couldn’t be more proud of the journey this show has been on, particularly when you consider how seldom you see devised work in main houses or on West End stages.
Who do you think should see the show? What should audiences expect from Education Education Education?  

The show is a pop-culture filled, laugh a minute, sprint through a 1997 comprehensive school. It really appeals to anyone who has worked in the education sector, as well as anyone who remembers with fondness the tacky gloriousness of the 1990s.

Education, Education, Education is full of 90s throwbacks and nostalgia – what is your favourite 90s fad or song in the show and why?   

It has got to be Tamagotchis. Every child of the 90s has a Tamagotchi story. I dropped mine in the sink. It was a terrible day.

Photo credit: Graeme Braidwood

Education, Education, Education is described as a love letter to the schools of the 90s, and hooks onto a very particular moment in recent British political history – why do you think the themes and concepts still resonate with 2019 audiences?   

I think a huge part of why the 90s hold such nostalgic power over us is that it was the last era that we were mobile phone-less and internet-less. Whether it is true or not, it feels like a simpler time, a time where kids would flick GoGos for hours rather than playing on their iPads, a time where teachers would leave their classes with a work book and play cricket in the corridors. The fashion was awful and the songs cheesy, the music of the era acts as a kind of portal to a time where you’d wait for Friday at 9pm to watch the next episode of Friends. I think there is something in that simpler time which calls out to us now.

Looking back at Blair’s education policies, how have they directly affected us today in 2019?     
Many brilliant things came off the back of Blair’s election, billions of pounds were poured into the education system, almost every school in the country was rebuilt, class sizes were reduced for infants. We are still benefitting from those policies today. However, Blair’s administration also introduced the first university fees, setting the ball rolling for the extortionate fees students have to pay today. The focus of school’s became results led, leading many teachers working today to feel as though they are forced to view their pupils as statistics, not people with myriad complex needs and passions.

Talk us through how theatre is an effective art form for exploring the political landscape.   

Theatre allows you to entertain at the same time as thought provoke. We are often interested in the grey-areas, those murky moral middle spaces, and politics if full of them. We weren’t interested in making a polemic, left-leaning show, as we felt we may well end up preaching to the converted, but rather wanted to probe where we felt our governments are placing their priorities, and so allow our audiences to consider that too. We are presenting something, but theatre is a conversation, we want our shows to lead you to the bar, to the street, to home, to have conversations and debates.    

As a company The Wardrobe Ensemble are collaborative by nature – can you talk us through your devising process and what brought you together?

The Wardrobe Ensemble was borne out of a one-year training program at the Bristol Old Vic Theatre called Made in Bristol where we’d trained two days a week as theatre makers and workshop leaders. The culmination of that year was a week-long slot in the BOV studio where we could put on whatever we wanted. That first show we made was called RIOT, and was inspired by the 2005 IKEA riot in Edmonton, we took that show to Edinburgh and from there our company took off. Our rooms are initially led by facilitators, everyone can throw ideas of devising tasks into the mix and then we’ll spend days creating loads and loads of material. Once we have tons of scenes we start to think about structure and then we really start to hone the show into a dramatic form. We often take over 2 years to create our full company shows, with many research and development periods, lots of writing and much gestation.

The Wardrobe Ensemble
Education, Education, Education
Friday 31 May - Saturday 29 June
Trafalgar Studios
Info and Tickets: shoreditchtownhall.com

Photo credit: Graeme Braidwood

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