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Broken Voices
Published on Sunday, 15 August 2010

5 stars

The Vault (venue website)
8 - 14 Aug, times vary
Reviewed by Catherine Meek

In these days of "hoodies" and knife crime, there's a lot of discussion about who bears responsibility for adolescent behaviour: does it belong to parents, to society, to someone else? Broken Voices addresses the role of individual teachers, not with the usual praise of the lasting and positive difference an inspiring teacher makes - but instead with a warning of the potentially damaging impact of those who provide no wisdom or guidance, striving instead to control their charges and stamping on their attempts at self-expression under guise of senior authority.

Teenage boredom, a by-product of just such a lack of inspiration for many young people, is the theme of this play. Brilliant is the performance by these young actors aged 11 to 15, thereby given an opportunity to voice their questioning of the world around them as they develop their own identities. Their acting is unselfconscious, easy, passionate and fluent.

The characters they play are familiar ones, ranging from the bully to the “mummy’s boy”, yet their lines are so convincing - their performance so uncontrived - that they do not appear as stereotypes. The play climaxes with an event I won’t reveal, but which serves to explain the harmful results of just such a scenario, both for them and for society as a whole.

Scripted by Peter Bird, himself a head teacher, the dialogue positively leapt from the stage for its authenticity.  It provides a privileged and rare glimpse into the world of the youth - as well as a thoughtful insight into the role of teachers, beyond the blackboard and "the three R's". Congratulations are due to Peter Bird for an excellent script, and to the young actors for their  commitment to this performance. Highly recommended.

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These are archived reviews of shows from the Edinburgh Fringe 2010.  We keep our archives online as a courtesy to those we've featured, and for readers who'd like to research previous years' reviews.

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