School for Fools

Sasha Sokolov

Barbican

(2002)

Review by Philip Fisher

BITE:02 has sourced several of its productions from the Edinburgh Festival and Fringe 2000 and 2001. School for Fools won the Formalny Company from St Petersburg and a Fringe First last year, not to mention other awards from around the world.

This piece combines many different artistic forms as it tells the dreamlike story of a young boy's life. To make things interesting, two actors play the young boy.

In fact, at the start, there is a tripartite depiction as the two actors are assisted by a translator with charming English and a good sense of humour. The binary relationship between the two sides of the boy is made clear in this prologue.

Life as a young boy is then demonstrated through shadow-play, voice-overs, film and dance, music from martial to minimalist, and both physical and verbal acting. There are even a few acrobatics.

He meets the headmistress who doubles as a witch, a teacher who is doted on by geeky admirers, and, most poignantly, a doomed, bare-footed geography teacher whose final appearance is ghostly.

The whole is hard to describe as it uses so many different forms to explain the joys and pains, laughter and tears of childhood. There is though, a feel and look of Beckettian absurdity as the play develops.

The performances and production within a simple but effective set - all white furniture and gauzy curtains, work well. In particular, the two actors playing the main part catch the embarrassment of a withdrawn but highly intelligent boy with much affection and no little humour.