Book: Paul Hurt
Music and Lyrics: Adam Howell
Director: Ellie Jones
British Youth Music Theatre’s Educating Yorkshire T’Musical! is “inspired by” the award-winning television documentary series. Your reviewer is slightly adrift, having never seen the television series, but it in no way impairs enjoyment of a highly successful show.
In fact Adam Howell and Paul Hurt’s script fits a fairly time-worn pattern, following Year 11 through their GCSE year, beginning with some alarmingly bad behaviour to a new Maths teacher and finishing with the Head moving on, but within this framework things ring pretty true. Only the final gesture of the Head, at end of term, telling the popular English teacher she’s leaving and the job is his strikes a really false note. The interrogations of staff and pupils by an unseen voice add a skilful touch of realism.
On a bare stage, with EDUCATING YORKSHIRE T’MUSICAL emblazoned above the excellent instrumental quartet, a brash, enormously confident girl (sadly there is no cast list) bullies the audience into response and explains that they are re-enacting events of their Year 11. There’s an opening number (probably called “Yorkshire”) where, in the tradition of “Another Op’nin’, Another Show,” in between the verses we are introduced to individual cast members, then it’s on with the chairs and the screens and we’re off with the poor Maths teacher confessing she’s out of her depth.
Among the various incidents and accidents that follow, the key mover in terms of plot comes when a boy takes advantage of a gesture of sympathy to grab a kiss from the unfortunate Maths teacher – as things work out, it’s not the kiss, it’s the photograph that matters, prompting a final dust-up between the two “bad girls”.
So what is special about Educating Yorkshire? Well, Ellie Jones marshals her forces brilliantly, characters who never take the lead in the main story establishing their personalities or the whole block of students sparking to Ash Mukherjee’s choreography. Then what becomes apparent as the evening wears on is that this is not about a few stars. There are so many good voices around, all getting their solos – a special word here for Jasmine, plagued with a stammer (and rather miraculously cured).
And then there are the teachers, the Head totally convincing in getting a grip on a failing school, the sweet Maths teacher hardening up, the English teacher able to experiment because he has the class on his side. Two of the best songs are the teacher in charge of Isolation (a terrifying concept, but a nice fair guy) recounting the perils of internet dating and the kindly veteran woman teacher beautifully expressing her views on life.
The occasional missed cue for a mike aside, the technical side works well, the music under Josh Kemp is spot on, but the lasting overall impression is the energy and talent of the large cast.
Runs until 7th August 2022.