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A CurtainUp London Review
The Dead School
Just five actors take all parts and with the same pair playing mother and father to each teacher you can forgive us, if those without prior knowledge were somewhat confused. The play opens in the dilapidated building that was once a famous school, not only is it hard to believe now but it is even harder when scenes of the school at the height of its success are played in the same decrepit set.
The cast of course work very, very hard in the Shared Experience tradition singing as well as acting, but maybe dramatically we have moved on from all that physical expressionism in the theatre of the 1990s. This confusing collage of memories did have me writing after the first half hour, "I have no idea what is going on!" A figure called "the Little Beggarman" (Peter Daly) at regular intervals appears at the window in a pig faced mask and makes things even more incomprehensible except towards the end of the play when he seems to take on the representation of the harbinger of Death.
The story is of Raphael Bell (played by a very sympathetic Sean Campion) who, after the death of his father, wins a place at college and lands a teaching job at St Christopher's, a very good school. However it will end badly as it does for his younger parallel, Malachy Dudgeon (Nick Lee) who twenty years later will also struggle in the teaching profession and with his marriage. Devout Catholic Raphael Bell will come up against a militant parent governor and Malachy Dudgeon, under stress, will make a fatal error.
The Dead School is not exactly one of those feel good advertisements for the esteem with which former pupils hold the teaching profession and the last act is at least half an hour overly long.
Retold by Tina Packer of Shakespeare & Co.
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