Fake news seems to be a new phenomenon introduced into our culture by an orange faced maniac but as Trojan Horse points out it is nothing new.
Lung are probably Britain’s leading verbatim company, and this time they are focusing on allegations in an anonymous letter to Birmingham City Council alleging a plot codenamed Trojan Horse by ‘hardline’ Muslim parents and governors to secretly introduce extremist ideas into local schools.
A hard working and committed cast of five focus on the stories of an embattled chair of governors, a bitter head teacher, one of the teachers who may ruined by the chaos, a local councillor and crucially a young Muslim pupil who finds herself stuck in the middle of this very public maelstrom.
In some ways this might work just as well as a radio play, but the simple set of old- fashioned desk and chair allows a full focus on the damage the allegations caused in a predominately Muslim community and our nation by an unsigned and undated letter.
Trojan Horse have used over 200 documents and interviews to piece together elements of what happens after a media storm erupts prompting the national inspector of schools to descend at the behest of a Tory Secretary of State for Education to find evidence of this plot. Despite their best efforts that evidence of extremism is lacking although they did find evidence why the school went from one kid passing their GCSEs to three quarters making the grade,
Along the way the cast thoughtfully and skilfully peel back the layers of a story we think we know, but really don’t, and among many pertinent questions ask why one of the inquires was carried out by the Metropolitan Police’s head of counter terrorism who had zero experience of running a school.
Perhaps the most damaging accusation is somehow these governors and parents don’t embody British values whatever they are. For any parents sat in the audience it is clear there is no greater British value than wanting a decent education for your children.
Even the villains of this piece get a decent hearing from a cast who make them human, and as writers Helen Monk and Matt Woodhead illustrate when the shit hits the fan everyone get splattered with it, including most criminally the confused students caught in a hell not of their making.
Trojan Horse was developed here at the Playhouse in their Furnace project supporting the development of new work. It was the right choice to open their shiny new spaces after a multi-milllon pound refurb because while state of the art bogs and a shiny façade are all well and good unless you match it with powerful work like this then it's all a bit pointless.
Trojan Horse is at Leeds Playhouse until Saturday 5th October and then touring. More details www.lungtheatre.co.uk
Reviewer: Paul Clarke
Reviewed: 3rd October 2019
North West End UK Rating: ★★★★