The Knowledge

15 Oct

School can be a pretty horrible place. And we condemn our kids to 13 years of it. You get less for murder.

The Knowledge by John Donnelly presents a very troubled school. Obviously, the play is not set in Australia. (My teacher friends will recognize my irony. It’s the mother tongue of all who wish to serve but feel constrained by an institution whose purpose is allegedly the same.)

It’s about 140 years since most developed countries introduced universal schooling. One reputed motivation was to remove kids from the misery of the factories. But, being so concerned with the welfare of children, clearly efforts were made to retain some continuity.

With humour and passion Rebecca Martin’s production superbly captures all the flaws of the system. Her extraordinary cast brings to life the struggles of not just one lost generation but three.

For the power of this play is that it reminds us that we don’t actually know what to teach our kids. What exactly is the wisdom we want to pass on?

Literacy and numeracy?

These are beautiful gifts, but without more they easily diminish into mere access to the gutter press and the desire to take out loans.

What should we pass on? It’s a real question.

And schools aren’t equipped to answer it. Why should they be? They’re not – despite some painful similarities – factories, driven by the power of specialization of labour.

The teachers in this play don’t know the answer. That’s its strength. (I’m not espousing the idea that plays raise questions rather than answer them. I think plays very often answer a whole raft of questions; it’s the source of their textual integrity.)

Here the answer is plain: it’s not up to teachers. If we insist on institutionalizing education it’s up to all of us.

The Knowledge is an engaging night of theatre. And like all good theatre, it leaves us with homework.

Veronica Kaye

The Knowledge

New Theatre til 3 Nov

One Response to “The Knowledge”


  1. The Knowledge | pantsguys Productions - October 15, 2012

    […] Theatre Red Review […]

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