I’m a bit behind the times. I actually saw this play last week and I’ve not yet blogged about it even though I did rave about it a bit through the week. It was a funny and thought provoking play about a group of sixth form boys at a Sheffield school. We were introduced to them through their General Studies class with Hector and old iconoclastic teacher who loves the classics, particularly another old bugger, Auden. He gives the boys lifts home on his motorbike and feels them up on the way home. The boys aren’t traumatised by this, in fact they vie for his attention and are very fond of him. Hector teaches the boys to love poetry and classic literature and even teaches them French, much to the disgust of the Head teacher who is unable to quantify Hector’s teaching and so brings in a much more educationally acceptable teacher Irwin (Matthew Newton) who knows how to get the boys to pass their final exams and get into the much coveted Oxford University.
Alan Bennett shows his scorn for this character by giving him a job on BBC2 after having him fall of Hector’s bike because he ‘leant the wrong way’.
The boys are the wittiest bunch and wryly observe the goings on at the school. They are resilient survivors who show us that teachers don’t really understand them (with the possible exception of Hector). They are confident and accepting of one another.
The educational debate threaded through the play is particularly apt at the moment given the governmental concern for quantifying everything that teachers do and the possibility of performance pay for teachers who ‘value add’. Irwin would get paid under this system as he could be percieved to have taught them how to pass the exams and get into Oxford; Hector would not get paid even though his is the spine that exists in the body of their knowledge and his teaching will continue to support their love of learning. Get that Julie Bishop!
This is a must see play if you are at all interested in education, learning (yes, they are separate things) and like a good laugh. The funniest scene was the French scene where the boys were using the subjunctive to wish for what all 18 year old boys wish for. The head teacher enters the room and the boys become wounded soldiers crying ‘Aidez moi!’ . They clearly do not need help as they frolic around the room, one trouserless. At several times the audience was convulsed by the wit threaded through the play and it is one that will stay with you for quite some time, much like Hector’s teaching I suspect.
Well, I finished ‘the Ringmaster’s Daugher’. I really enjoyed it. The ending was not at all predictable. It really dealt well with the writer’s world and a very unusual character who lived right on the edge of it and yet was eventually too valuable for his own good.
I was reading through the paper at the weekend looking for new books and I found this one. The Raw Shark Texts by Stephen Hall. WOW! I read it in two nights and absolutely loved it. It’s a fantastic concept. Part Matrix, part Wizard of Oz, part Jasper Fforde and part Jaws. It was unpredictable and fascinating.
Eric wakes up and hasn’t any clue where he is. What’s worse, he doesn’t have any idea who he is. He finds a series of letters and they lead him to a psychiatrist who he assumes is helping him. She tells him not to open any letters addressed to the ‘first’ Eric. Which he manages to do for an amazingly long time lulled into a false sense of security by his boring domesticity and daytime TV. Eventually he gets curious and opens some mail which leads him into a fantastic adventure to find the real him. He travels across Northern England looking for one Dr Trey Fidorous and finds Scout (or she finds him). They set off in search of Dr Fidorous pursued by a vicious Ludovicius. (well you’ll have to read the book to find out what this is, I can’t give it all away) Needless to say this was a masterpiece of modern fiction. I loved the way that it played with the idea that texts were ideas bigger than reality. Hmm maybe they’re Platonic forms? anyway it’s the cult book of the year.
Must read. Look out for the quirky text layout too.
Well, I couldn’t leave it at that. The book is called the Ringmaster’s Daughter.Here’s some background about Jostein Gaarder on wikipedia.
I also found a fabulous picture of him looking like an extra from Abba the Movie.