Stars explained: * A production of no real merit with failings in all areas. ** A production showing evidence of not enough time or effort, or even talent, and which never breathes any real life into the piece – or a show lumbered with a terrible script. *** A good enjoyable show which might have some small flaws but has largely achieved what it set out to do.**** An excellent show which shows a great deal of work and stage craft with no noticeable or major flaws.***** A four star show which has found that extra bit of magic which lifts theatre to another plane.
Half stars fall between the ratings


Lessons to be learned: Dorothy Hill (left) Eve Hack-Myers (rear) Moriah Potter, Joel Fleming, Amit Mevorach, Leauren Brine, Alec Charles-Peers (rear), Indigo Perrett and Elijah Dix

Status Update


Education, Education, Education


Crescent Theatre


It has been just over three years since Stage2 last appeared at The Crescent - we reviewed a performance of Alice - but it is as if they have never been away with the same enthusiasm, same flair, same confidence, and many of the same faces.

They return with a double bill, Status Update, by Tim Etchells and Education, Education, Education from The Wardrobe Ensemble, two plays with unashamedly non-partisan political undertones, but then again if youngsters can’t engage with politics who can? After all they are the ones who will have to sort out the mess we leave.

Status Update is an interesting concept rather than a play. The perfomance only obtained funding at the last minute from Birmingham City Council Celebrating Communities Fund so the real status update on the piece is that it was thrown together from nothing to finished product in just five days the week before performance.

That involved all the technical work on lighting, sound, video and props from Stage2 youngsters as well as rehearsing a cast of 33 which included some old stagers and some in their first show, having just joined on the Monday at the start of the week!

There is no plot, no storyline, no . . . no nothing really, just random thoughts. It comes from Connections, the National Theatre’s annual festival of new plays for schools and youth groups and is a how long is a piece of string question when it comes to cast size – and Stage2 have always thought big in that regard.

So, we have a superb ensemble piece where we discover the thoughts, hopes, beliefs, fears and, perhaps behind it all, the needs of young people.

They speak truths and half-truths, profess beliefs and denials with voices uttering often unrelated thoughts to start a conversation of alternative views until a subject is replaced by another voice. They talk to the audience directly, often raising a smile or a laugh, telling us what they think, what they see, what fails or works in the world we have created. There are views on sexuality, equality and fairness in society, on rich and poor, right and wrong, the firebrands of youth burning bright.

They tell us what they know, sometimes the blazingly obvious, the number of people in the audience or the size of the room for instance, undeniable facts, and they also tell us what they don’t know. They know we in the audience will die before the youngsters on stage, which is probably true, except the youngsters on stage then realised they did not know when they would die, who would be first - could the first even be in 10 minutes? Who knows, and who knows was a constant theme, ideas with alternatives, but no universal truth, something given more substance after the isolation and disruption to young lives in particular by Covid, the freedom of youth denied to a generation.

status update

An addition to the Stage2 repertoire for this piece was the inclusion of dance, with choreography a joint effort by new artistic director Rosie Nisbet and Stage2 regular Moriah Potter, which gave life and movement to an inventive piece of modern theatre.

Education, Education, Education was the mantra of Tony Blair when he took the keys to Downing Street in May 1997 and recited here by the diminutive Leena Patel as the new PM. Labour had won the election, Katrina  and the Waves had won Eurovision and Tobias, the German teacher, Herr not just Sir, had arrived for his first day at Wordsworth Comprehensive School.

It is a school where special measures are always hovering nearby, a school where temporary classrooms are celebrating their 20th anniversary, books are almost the same age, the roof leaks, and year 11 are on their last day before heading off home to study for GCSEs. Year 11 being the definition of feral in the view of Louise Turner.

Miss Turner is head of discipline and a strict disciplinarian – do stop sniggering at the back - who sees teaching as a war, us against them, education being collateral damage to the battle of wills. She sees her job as instilling fear in a sternly solid performance from Indigo Perrett – we had better say she was excellent as methinks it is not a good idea to get on the wrong side of Miss Turner.

Mind you she almost softens up, perhaps just a hint of it, with the history teacher Paul McIntyre, played with a sort of macho intimidation by Elijah Dix. The pair, it seems, celebrated the Labour election victory together the previous night in a sort of freelance relationship seminar – just for the one night as it stands.

McIntyre is a bit of a bully and has managed to manufacture his own, soon to be out of control clash with a rebellious pupil.

The pupil being Emily Greenslade in what is a fabulous performance from Moriah Potter. Emily is a problem pupil, quick to rise to real or perceived slight, argumentative, ill disciplined, yet has plenty of friends, her beef seemingly with teachers and their brand of authority.

She was first to return her slip and payment for a history trip to York, but McIntyre imposed conditions on her before she could go, conditions she complied with, and now he tells her the trip is full and oversubscribed, so despite her fulfilling her part of the bargain, she still can’t go.


 Moriah puts real passion and emotion into her speeches as the injustice festers within her which is not so much a spoiler, more a setting of the scene for what is to happen as Emily takes her protest to levels that on another day could have proved fatal. A morality tale there. If you strike a bargain, honour it.

The school is under the headship of Hugh Mills, a gloriously animated performance from Joel Fleming. Hugh sees education as just that, educating, developing, enlightening his young charges, except that only works in a perfect world, the real world beyond his idealism needs discipline and control as foundations for aspirations.

And that is something also lacking in the teaching of Sue Belltop-Doyle with her holistic approach in another fine performance this time from Lauren Brine. She tries to make English seem more alive, more interesting, except her class acting out the battle scene between Arthur’s followers and Lancelot's gang in Sir Thomas Malory’s Le Morte d'Arthur ends in a real fight – which does not go down well with Miss Turner.

Then there is Tim Pashley, PE teacher, a would be life and soul, tasked with taking charge of a French class where he actually has more fingers than words of French, in a delightful show from Alec Charles-Peers, who is desperately trying to keep a confiscated Tamagotchi alive.

Wandering around with little purpose is Donna, with some lovely touches from Eve Hack-Myers, the receptionist who spends more time in the staff room than on reception.

Amid this collection of teaching misfits is Jaqueline Townsend who appears pretty well normal, versed in first aid, and played serenely by Dorothy Hill, who also has the added task of being stage manager.

And observing all this is Tobias, played quite brilliantly by Amit Mevorach, who has grown as an actor over the years at Stage2. He speaks mainly to the audience in asides, with his love of British music – Take That, Oasis and Spice Girls tracks abound - British cuisine such as cheese string, and observations of British culture, all very funny and in a consistent German accent.

Mr McIntyre’s unjust show of power slowly escalates as Emily sets out to right a wrong, with it all getting out of hand rising up to dramatic conclusion, four floors high, on the leaking school roof.

It is all too much for Miss Turner who decides Emily has to go, when, in perhaps the most telling moment of the play, Hugh reveals Emily was a model pupil in the days when he was still teaching, so it was staff and the school who had changed that and made her into who she had become.

She had not failed, the school had failed her.

The play is funny, at times thoughtful, and telling in how education is almost a political football, pulled one way then the other by different Governments, different ministers wanting to make a mark, different ideologies, fashions or priorities, academies, privatisation, league tables, all in flux amid constantly squeezed funding steadily falling in real terms.

Twenty five years on much of Tony Blair’s promise, it seems, has still to be realised.

Both pieces are directed by Rosie Nisbet, the new Artistic Director, who joined Stage2 13 years ago and returns with a drama degree under her belt to take the reins in her directorial debut.

Two very different and testing pieces undertaken with aplomb, one voices in a youthful wilderness, the other a five star comedy with a serious core about the state of education and the unfulfilled promise of the Blair mantra. To 05-08-22.

Roger Clarke


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