As I waited in the bustling hallway, I was bursting with excitement to see Minoli De Silva’s (Director) adaption of this paradoxically innocent yet dark story, ‘An Education’. Immediately upon entering the St. Age, the set was impressive and certainly period appropriate, with the two levels exposed to the audience and brimming with all of the antiques and knickknacks that one would expect in a working class 1960’s London home. The slight delay in the commencement of the play was placated by the multitude of things to observe and take notice of thanks to the well-executed set design. In addition to this there was projections of classic 1960’s scenes depicting London in the 1960’s and the music catapulted us into the world of culture, jazz and romance.
As the cast emerged and the scenes began to unfold, Jenny (Eleanor Burke) rightly carried the play, hooking the audience immediately with her relatable teenage sensibilities and likable nature. I, along with those around me were in fits of laughter at the ingenious depiction of Graham (Charles Vivian) as a tragically awkward misfit hopelessly in love with a disinterested Jenny, capturing the hearts of the audience and relieving moments of tension with perfectly timed humour.
The interaction between Jenny and her father Jack (Charlie Flynn) was particularly touching throughout due to her fiery protectiveness of her father. Flynn offered numerous moments of humour and his interpretation of a 1960’s father was marvellously received by the audience. He was able to convey both his pride and struggles in such a heart-warming way that despite the masochistic aspects of his character due to the time period, the audience readily accepted that his love for his daughter overtook any prejudice.
In contrast, Jenny’s relationship with her mother Marjorie (Francesca Ash) was full of support and comfort. The gentleness of Ash’s character when dealing with Jenny conveyed genuine trust between the two, allowing Jenny to seek refuge and support from her father’s impossibly high expectations.
This chaotic family unit was, in my opinion the heart of the play, despite the real plot following Jenny’s rather inappropriate relationship with David (Liam Smith), an older man desperately trying to win her heart. With an uncomfortable age gap between the two, Burke’s original awkwardness was endearing yet disconcerting and Smith played David excellently, with an equal balance of both charisma and sleaze. Throughout their relationship, Burke should be commended in her development of Jenny as the audience understood the dramatic effect this infatuation had on this impressionable young girl.
Although the humorous moments were enjoyable, my favourite were the quiet, more realistic encounters with Miss Stubbs (Isobel Sinclair). Her teacher offered a voice of reason among the madness and saw something that even Jenny’s own parents did not: the reality of the situation
Unfortunately, although the music was atmospheric and useful to aid the transition between scenes, it was often too loud to be considered background music and made it increasingly difficult to hear some snippets of the dialogue. I understand the absence of mics allowed for a more naturalistic atmosphere but I did struggle to hear certain sections.
Overall, I thoroughly enjoyed ‘An Education’ and particularly appreciated the small, well thought out details that permeated the play from the links to Jenny’s journey of self-discovery through the transitional music to the delicate way Jenny’s vulnerability was implied during the intimate moment between the couple. Despite the premise of the plot revolving around David’s ability to manipulate both Jenny and her parents, I appreciated the strength depicted by Burke and believed wholeheartedly in her characters development. The final words of the play fittingly allowed Jenny to symbolically regain control as she realises her history and past need not define her future.