Cutting songs stick knife into schoolday nostalgia

15th August 2003 at 01:00
SCHOOL is boring. It is monotonous and repetitive, and afternoon lessons drag on interminably.

It is this reality of school life, free from the rose-tinted glow of hindsight, that Julian Kaufman hoped to capture in his musical comedy, School Ties. Fed up of the nostalgia for schooldays fuelled by websites such as Friends Reunited, the 33-year-old east London special-needs teacher wanted to remind his audiences how painful their time in the classroom actually was.

"School isn't about life-or-death situations," he said. "It's about relationships, bullying, fighting and breaking up. It matters so much at the time, but when you look back you wonder why you were bothered."

Written, directed and produced by Mr Kaufman and his English-teacher brother, Jonathan, School Ties presents a series of classroom and staffroom portraits, instantly recognisable but stopping short of stereotype. There is the new girl, bubbling with fresh-faced enthusiasm, the snide, cool girl, the anorak-clad plane-spotter bullied by the popular kids, and the art teacher who believes that "nothing is wrong in art, so it doesn't matter if your still-life fruit is a bit square".

The characters, ably played by an adult all-female cast of four, describe the petty trauma of school life through a series of sharply witty, well-observed songs.

Several pupils, for example, lament: "I hate teachers. I hate all teachers.

Except for the teachers I don't mind."

The essentially insignificant plot, in which pupils fight, face bullies and attempt to set fire to the school but forget to bring matches, is based on the Kaufman brothers' experiences, as pupils and teachers.

But Julian Kaufman said that what was depicted on stage was a sanitised version of bizarre reality.

"Working in a school is even weirder than our play. There are very eccentric teachers in special needs. But if I put some of the teachers I work with on stage, people just wouldn't believe it."

School Ties is at the Metro Gilded Balloon The Venue. Box office: (0131) 226 2151

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