Burning Books Reviewed

Burning Books by Jess Green

Review by: Paul Towers, 25 October 2017

Directed by Julia Thomas

Curve, Leicester: 25 - 28 October 2017

'a savage indictment of the failure of our children by the current education system'

Sometimes the promotional material for a play does not do the production full justice. Such is the case with Jess Green's Burning Books. On a fact sheet handed to all the audience members as they trooped into Curve's pop-up performance space, RR2, there was loads of  background blurb about how the piece has morphed from some poetry into a music show and thence into a stage show. She garnered lots of response from the public after her poetry readings and those stories of people's experiences within the education system have given birth to this show. It all seemed very worthy, dry and unexciting to my eyes.

Then the lights went down, the soundtrack (composed by Tasha Leggatt) came up and we were treated to a peek into the lives of 3 disillusioned teachers, by turns funny and achingly frustrating. This is a tale of four members of  a failing school in special measures and how they are thwarted at every turn by Government cut-backs and pen pushing money men as they try to instil a tiny bit of  motivation into classes of couldn't-care-less kids from a sink estate. How they manage to cope, just, with the stresses and strains of trying desperately to keep their heads above water is a lesson in survival within a lackadaisical education system.

While Jess Green's script is sharp and spot on (so my teacher friends tell me) it is the acting that brings the story into sharp relief.

Kat (Rebecca Newman) is the new First Teach student who tries to team up with union stalwart Janine (Erin Geraghty) to fight the forced conversion to an Academy. Scott (Conor Deane) is the PE teacher, all track suits and misogyny, and is as much use as a chocolate teapot and Mrs Sizzly (Mary Jo Randel), the school librarian with aspirations above her abilities and is blindly in love with Head Master Dom (Jasper Cook), never seen but omnipresent via the tannoy system..

This is a savage indictment of the failure of our children by the current education system

Burning Books is at Curve until Saturday 28th October as part of the Inside Out Festival

Paul Towers: