For the School Colours: The Life and Works of Angela Brazil is a new play from Not Cricket Productions, chronicling the life of Angela Brazil – a prolific children’s author who popularised the genre of schoolgirl stories. The show is broken down into a number of short scenes and scenarios, framed by a narrative of Brazil’s life.
The cast is made up of three women and two men who, aside from the actress playing Brazil, play multiple roles with great success. The framing narrative focuses on the Brazil children and how their lives were entwined by the controlling Angela.
The vignettes used throughout are used to highlight various elements of her life and work, and are presented with boundless energy by the cast. The most successful include what have since become clichéd moments, pioneered by her works – a midnight feast, or the daring escapades of schoolgirls clambering over rooftops. Also included are suggestions of what may have happened to Brazil between the time she left school, and when her first book was published; this period of her life remains unknown, so these passages are highly speculative and a lot of fun.
However, some of the scenes, especially towards the end of the play, are presented at such speed that it is sometimes difficult to tell who the people are. A large number of characters, both real and imagined, are featured. It would perhaps have worked better to trim a few of these scenes in favour of a slightly more traditional narrative.
At points throughout, Brazil writes what appears to be dates on the blackboard, which would help to orientate these moments – but unless you are in the one row facing the board, it is impossible to read. The cast are obviously aware that this may be an issue, as earlier in the play they hold up signs which are shown to each side of the audience in turn, so it's a shame they don’t do something similar with the blackboard.
The show is performed at a frenetic pace, and it can be difficult keeping up with exactly what is going on at any one time, but the main points of Angela Brazil’s life are successfully made. All in all this is an interesting production highlighting the life of a woman who – while not known today – clearly has had a massive impact on thousands of people over the years.