“Not a beat missed, not a line fluffed, every laughter line as crisp and straight as the hem on Miss Jean Brodie’s sensible tartan skirt.”
School’s in this EdFringe and there’s something not quite right about our new headteacher. We enter to find four coloured boxes, a mic stand, and no sign of an Ofsted inspector. The kids are pulling a prank led by a couple of naughty, but essentially nice, twins. They’re asking ‘why’ a lot, and it’s sent the previous head out of her mind. So we find ourselves at assembly, even though we’re at SpaceUK. The deputy head, nice chap but rather dim, announces the arrival and installation of the new boss who is most definitely NOT the same as the old boss.
What follows are 50 minutes of undiluted, knock-your-socks-off silliness which may (or may not) carry a serious message about listening to kids when they tell you something is wrong. Or about how we tolerate the intolerable greed and oppression of our tyranny-driven overlords. Or about how the good get eaten. Or about the need to understand those who are most different from us. Perhaps it’s a variation on the theme of auld king log, his frog subjects, and that heron – but I never read Aesop.
The young cast are masters of revelry. Their actual school, Emanuel in Battersea, is an award-winning shaper of bright young things and the things on show in Edinburgh this August are a credit to their peers, parents, and pedagogues. Not a beat missed, not a line fluffed, every laughter line as crisp and straight as the hem on Miss Jean Brodie’s sensible tartan skirt. This is a show for younger kids by slightly older kids who are, as the saying goes, neither grass nor hay. How did they get on enthralling (or should that be entrolling) Daughter 1.0 (7yrs)?
In her EdFringe notebook, the one with the sequined unicorn on the cover, she wrote: “In Our teacher’s a troll the head teacher was teaching a class and the terible twins kept on asking why. And then they found her eating sand and mooing like a cow And to replace her it was a troll. “Oh no it can’t be it’s not it is!” He made them work in a Gold mine. And all they coald eat was brusill sproutrs ip peanut butter! The terible twins put worm in sanwiches and the boy who ate worms Was eaten. a nother child and a grown up was eaten they told the prime minester there Mum the police and the school inspector but they woaldn’t lisen. They were almost eaten! All this made my teeth chata. I loved it!”
This is a show which makes a lot of good choices (like Daughter 2.0 on one of her better days). The best, in my not especially humble opinion, was to represent the troll via that mic stand, with the cast taking turns to have their voices amplified and distorted into a fearsome roar. Together with the studied use of a green spotlight, the truly menacing effect was not unlike what the Dr Who props boffins achieved with that plunger on Jacqueline Hill back in the day – you know it’s done on a budget, but it’s still pretty scary if you’re up to your lime green heels in the drama.
Dennis Kelly’s possibly poignant, definitely laugh-out-loud script is more than safe in the hands of these wunderkinds – you saw them here first.