Have I got loos for you about the festival

31st July 2009 at 01:00
They may still be in the first flushes of youth, but schools across the land are heading to the fringe

School toilets are notorious for their versatility: as gossip hubs, breaktime dressing-rooms and bullying hot zones. And, now, as a theatre.

This year's Edinburgh fringe festival includes the premiere of a performance that originated in school loos. Still Waiting for Godot was written after Harry Michell, a sixth former at the City of London School for Boys, set out to stage Beckett's play.

"I wanted to set it somewhere avant-garde," he said. "So I thought, where do I find myself waiting most? The toilet came to mind."

But Beckett's estate refused to grant permission for performances in public toilets. "They felt it would be undermining the play in some way," said Harry, "which was a bit of a bummer, to be honest."

So he wrote Still Waiting for Godot, in which theatre-goers arrive to see a performance of the Beckett play that has been cancelled, and are therefore left waiting endlessly.

The play will be performed in Edinburgh's St James public toilets, which have been fully sanitised.

"We use the toilets, the sinks, the urinals," said Harry. "We haven't had anyone go to the toilet mid-performance yet. But at school, a cleaner walked in mid-performance, looked around for a minute, then got on with cleaning."

Harry is among a number of pupils and teachers taking performances to the festival this summer.

These include An Ofsted Inspector Calls, written by Surrey drama teacher Alasdair Richardson. The play tells of a chaotic school visited by pedantic inspectors (motto: "infiltrate, evaluate, annihilate").

Meanwhile, in Staff Room Stories, playwright John Caplis recounts a supply teacher's contempt for his pupils. The show is based on his own experiences. "It's catharsis," he said. But audience members should not assume that they can sit quietly at the back and escape attention. Mr Caplis will be asking his audiences to write a short composition.

Participation is also required during Parents' Evening in which the audience mingles with teacher-actors keen to discuss their children's progress at Aultyme High School.

So they can talk about new-fangled technology with Luddite history teacher Mr Kimble and hear music teacher Mr Starling lament his failed career as a jazz musician.

Georgia Goggin, the play's producer, said: "We spent a lot of time talking about our teachers, our best school memories. We wanted to make characters recognisable.

"We can all relate to parents' evenings. There's always a bit of drama and tension at these things. We just take it up to the max."

Other school plays off to Edinburgh

  • The Birds and the Bees: a bumbling science teacher delivers a sex education lesson.
  • Inherit the Wind: true story of a biology teacher charged with teaching the theory of evolution.
  • Columbinus: the story of the Columbine High School shooting.
  • The Unravelling: collaboration between playwright Fin Kennedy and Mulberry School for Girls.

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