FLORENCE NIGHTINGALE PRODUCTION – A SCATHING REVIEW
Last Wednesday morning – ahead of Lone Wolf Terrorist Attack number 11,794 – it was time to sit down and enjoy another School Production. On this occasion, it was about the life and times of celebrity nurse from olden days, Florence Nightingale.
After dumping Son 1 at his class, we then trudged round the the main entrance. Once there – as the place wasn’t quite ready for us – myself, my Mrs, and a bunch of other parents were obliged to adopt a holding pattern in the reception.
On the wall either side of two heavy duty double doors – the entrance to the hall – the School has printed out a kind of Mission Statement. A charter, if you will. I’m paraphrasing here, but it goes something like this:
“At (Insert Name) First School, we aim to prepare your child for modern life. As such we encourage our children to be:
- Self Confident
- Engaged with the local community
- Environmentally sound
- Not racist
- Gender neutral…
Plus some other buzz words. Also, coding.”
Effectively, it’s the stuff you write on your CV to pad out the ‘Skills’ section, but as an agenda for kids.
COSTUME STORY EXCHANGE
During this period of waiting – when not engaged with reading the walls – a number of key costume related facts were shared amongst the group. For instance, one of the children we were about to see would be sporting an official ‘Peaky Blinders’ cap, purchased from ‘the internet’. The ones who had Nurse characters to dress each had to shell out for a basic, white pillow case, in order for it to have arm holes slashed into it.
For my part, I divulged some pertinent information about the waistcoat our eldest would be wearing. Namely:
- It was the one I wore for my wedding
- There was some pudding residue on the little lapel, and
- It was in no way shape or form suitable for a 7 year old child
Anyhoo… After some additional milling about, we were eventually allowed in.
Unlike the cluster fuck of Christmas 2016, this one didn’t involve the whole year group – just the half of it. The other chunk of year 2 had done ‘Little Red Riding Hood’ the week before… Yes, I know. I don’t get it either.
Halving the amount of adults translated into:
- Fewer bums on seats, and plenty of leg room
- Fewer cars fighting each other for parking spaces (which in itself lead to a reduction in fatalities)
- A complete absence of BULLSHIT from the local residents, crying on about people parking in places of sentimental value. Or walking on their stupid, bent grass. The stupids.
Yes, it was a masterstroke alright.
As we entered the hall it became immediately clear that this was going to be a much more relaxed affair. We had a double row of red plastic school chairs to ourselves, and then a whole bunch of nothing but floor space between us and “the show” – perhaps as much as 15 ft… Perhaps.
PROPS AND SET DRESSING
The production team had laid out two of those bench seat things you only ever find in schools, plus an armchair in the centre, facing the audience. A blanket had been ceremonially laid over the armchair, covering it entirely. Though difficult to place exactly how, it had a definite air of ‘throne’. Maybe it was the central positioning?
At the far right of the stage, an attempt had been made to indicate an office. There was a desk, on which a sign had been placed bearing the words ‘Minister of War’. Behind that was a chair, and somewhere to the left, a whiteboard that displayed an itemised list. It read something along the lines of:
- Continue to win war
- Request more soldiers
- Make tea
- Propose to Mabel
Next to this lettering, and despite it being anachronistic to the setting of the play, someone had blue tacked of those ‘Keep Calm and Carry On’ posters… Never mind, eh?
IN COME MORE A WHOLE BUNCH MORE KIDS
After exchanging a few more choice quips with other parents, and annoying my wife in the process, I eventually settled into my seat. As I was in the process of stretching my legs out a bit, the double doors to the left of the stage were flung open. ‘Here comes the other half of year 2’ most of us will have said aloud, or thought internally.
It rapidly became clear – thanks to the process of gradual child recognition, or lack of – that this was in fact year 3 coming in. They’re marginally larger in build to our range of child, with increased levels of surliness . In turn, another wave of children entered and were seated in front of the last. These were year 1 kids, who are – of course – smaller, and a bit more nervy looking.
More and more kids were silently made to traipse in and sit down. Only second to last did the other detachment of year 2 enter the room. Finally, the oldest batch of kids – the year 4’s – were frog marched in. They and the year 3 lines were eventually shoved back to the point where we were resting our knees up against their heads. Finally, their form tutor tip-toed her way through; nudged a few pupils out of the way, and then kneeled down in front of us, facing the show. She then busted out a big old iPad, complete with the dangling flap of a carry case, in order to record the proceedings (perhaps in case of legal issues).
THE HEADMISTRESS SPEAKS
With everyone crammed in, the Headmistress duly trotted out. She has a way about her that I find… If not annoying, then close. GLENN Close.
You see, the Headmistress talks to children – of all ages – as though they’re lightly brain damaged horses. There’s a lot of nodding, encouraging noises and big, wide eyed facial expressions to go with the words. Fortunately, this time she was spared having to tell any of us off for parking all weird, or running over some dickhead’s cat.
She went through the classic School Assembly style “good morning” routine – coaxing the audience of school kids to parrot back at her. She then welcomed the two rows of non pupils clogging up the back, and then set the scene, explaining how hard the children had worked learning their lines, and so on. Then, searching for the lead actress – and employing the theatrical ‘salute hand above eyes’ manouvre – the Headmistress asked:
HEADMISTRESS: “Now, where’s Liz?”
LIZ: (Quiet) “Here miss.”
HEADMISTRESS: [Stooped, and over enunciating like a bastard] “HI LIZ! And can you tell me the name of the play you and your WONDERFUL class will be performing for us this morning?”
LIZ: (Quiet) “…rence Nightingale.”
HEADMISTRESS: “FLORENCE NIGHTINGALE! She – all the grown ups will know – is a VERY FAMOUS and VERY IMPORTANT person from history…”
…And so on. This went on for a little while longer, until the play was finally ready to kick off.
A STAGGERING LACK OF KNOWLEDGE OF BRITISH NATIONAL HEROES FROM THROUGHOUT HISTORY
Truth be told, amongst the non-Brit parents filling up our number – from places such as Poland, Malaysia, Japan, and… Scotland – a good many of them didn’t have the remotest fucking clue who Florence Nightingale is (or was). Again, I know. Whilst those of us fortunate enough to have been born subjects to Queen Elizabeth II share – out of pure courtesy – an in depth knowledge of the famous Nurses from throughout the world (for instance: Irena Sendler, Vivian Bullwinkel, and – naturally – Isabella Baumfree).
Sadly, our International Brothers and Sisters appear to live in a state of dreadful ignorance of our own Heroines of Modern Medicine. Presumably, they think the Pie Chart just popularised its own usage, out of nowhere, and not as a means employed by Wor Florrie for displaying causes of death.
One of the Dad’s didn’t even know what a Victorian was meant to be, for Christ’s sake. Ignorant Foreign Devils.
…Anyway, the play had begun.
SIMILARITIES OF THEME
Much as the last show, the Christmas Classic ‘Babushka‘, the action centered around a female protagonist. Again, in common with the old Russian bitch depicted in that show, young Florence is a renowned germophobe, and a staunch supporter of monotheism. In fairness, with the latter that translated into to just praying that wounded soldiers had clean beds and that. Yee knaa?
In essence, the play was a series of bullet points. These were read out loud; inter-spaced with a series of nursery rhymes with lyrics adapted to fit Crimean War era Nursing. For instance: ‘Twinkle Twinkle Little Lamp, lighting up the Soldier’s Camp’.
The play was effectively hosted by the same girl who’d played Babushka. She had lines like: “Hey, wait a minute! This ISN’T a fairy tale! This REALLY happened.” I mean, she really leaned into it, making the most of her reduced stage time. Mind, Number One Son offered a free slice of ham with each of his lines, so well played I say.
There was some fascinating use of characters breaking the fourth wall to deliver key pieces of information. Consequently, Son 1 took a break from playing a douchebag, sexist, product of his time, Victorian Surgeon – effectively the antagonist – to inform us that, “Hospitals were full of wounded men.”
WHAT ELSE HAPPENED?
- There was some shit with a fake hobby horse thing, ridden by ‘Peaky Blinders’ cap messenger boy.
- Furthermore, the throne I mentioned – about a thousand words ago – was occupied throughout the production by a girl playing Queen Victoria. Young Vic only had the one line, and I’m pretty sure it was just, “Well done.”
- Additionally, some girls were dressed as rats at one point. They enjoyed a brief musical number about pestilence.
- At no point was there ANY mention of Pie Charts.
In conclusion, I thought it was okay.