WAITING FOR OFSTED Four stars
TheSpace at Niddry Street venue 9
August 13 to 18 12.05
Waiting for Ofsted is a sly, humorous but ultimately serious response to Beckett’s Waiting for Godot, reflecting on what is or is not serious in life. It is brought to Edinburgh by Westcliff Boys Theatre, from Westcliff High School for Boys.
After the initial noisy beginning to the day, we are left with two boys, one of whom begins by declaiming, “Nothing to be done.” His teacher has not turned up. Plus he finds his shoe laces a problem. The other boy is somewhat entertained by the need to help this one. There follows some cheerful horseplay by a number of boys, until in time a teacher appears. Not the one hoped for. French teacher Mt Godot is not in today.
The teacher begins to quote poetry. The pupils respond by asking, “Is this in the spec?” They become outraged that things not on the syllabus or not approved by Ofsted are being talked about in their presence. Placards and a march ensue.
This is all great fun, but covers an issue of real sadness. Education has become an area where anything that cannot be measured may as well not exist. In my area the particular construction and materials used in the shoes worn by pupils to school is considered of first importance, with pupils sent home for any infringement. People of good intelligence believe this to be essential to the maintenance of order and discipline. Dear me.
The play has been put together by the current Director of Drama at the school, Ben Jeffreys, who has brought another school to perform at the Fringe on previous occasions. Fifteen school students are involved, from the whole 11 to 18 age range. Included are two Year 13 student actors with offers from Cambridge University. Lighting design is by old boy Sam Thomas who is studying design at Central School of Drama.
Back in the 80s droves of school students would be accompanied to the Edinburgh Fringe by staff from a number of local authorities that gave some priority to Drama, including my own authority of Nottinghamshire. As performers and audience members, the youngsters will have learned much and had a great experience. Then came Ofsted, the National Curriculum and more. It is excellent to see that this school at least is taking a serious, witty and provocative approach to school drama, and is developing the skills of its students in this very valuable area.
Watch out for their next offering. The school and also the students who move on nourished by their experience there may well have more to entertain and enlighten us.