Education, Education, Karaoke – Camden People’s Theatre, London

Reviewer: Graham Williams

Writer:  Tom Ryalls

Director: Scott Le Crass

Tom Ryalls wants to make shows for adults that are childish and yet political. In  Education, Education, Karaoke Ryalls invites the audience to follow a working- class school from 2000 until 2020 and explore the divisions that wealthy politicians build into state education. Each night a different actor or performer, each with a state education, is invited to tell the stories of the pupils armed with a karaoke machine and a dance mat.

The brave performer to take on this challenge for this first night is Yasmin Dawes. None of the performers for these shows is given rehearsal time. The premise of the show soon becomes clear, each year a child from the class chooses a number one hit song from that year which inspires either a monologue, karaoke challenge or dance mat routine and in this way we get to hear the stories of the children. The stories depend on the choice of song the audience makes each time and therefore the stories will be different for each performance.

It is an intelligent format; the play encourages audience participation from the outset which it really gets into with whoops, shouts out for favourite songs, loud singing and even some back chat, creating an exciting and fun environment. Dawes makes a great host and rouses the audience with ease. However, the monologues are the draw here and look at issues of bullying, coolness, diversity, tragedy, failure, homophobic language and coming out, among others.

This play is clearly meant to be political. It is in the title. However, apart from Nick Clegg getting a mention for his betrayal in tuition fees in 2010, there does not seem to be clear links made between the years and the politics of the time. For instance, sexuality and homophobia are discussed with no mention of the repeal of Clause 28 or the introduction of gay marriage which both occurred during these years.

Ryalls uses a nice physical metaphor for the changing times, both of rapidly changing IT and more tumultuous politics created through these new forms of IT, connectivity and the effects on politics and of political untruths but it oddly feels apolitical. As the karaoke numbers decrease, the monologues reflect aging, real life outcomes and loss of dreams and the political relevance seems lost somehow and the final monologue is confused.

Ryalls wants us to work out how we may all come back together in solidarity to change the system and the palpable feeling in the room is that the audience does want to carry on singing into the streets despite the flat ending.  Hopefully that enthusiasm will increase with the karaoke parties to be held after the Friday and Saturday night performances.

Runs until 27 November 2021

The Reviews Hub Score

Cleverly thought out karaoke theatre

The Reviews Hub - London

The Reviews Hub London is under the acting editorship of Richard Maguire. The Reviews Hub was set up in 2007. Our mission is to provide the most in-depth, nationwide arts coverage online.

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