With undoubtably one of the best titled pieces at Edinburgh Fringe this year, Badgers Can't Be Friends is a comedy that also navigates the struggles placed on those working in the education system, the impact teachers have on young people, and whether it is ever able to cater for individual pupil's needs. Mr Dennis likes to think of himself as a super teacher, but how far can he fight against problems much bigger than him?
Telling us a little more is Hamish Clayton, who is the director of the show.
How would you describe Badgers Can't Be Friends? A comedy with a serious edge, exploring the role of teachers in our current education system and the kids of connection in our modern world.
What inspired the plot, and where did the title come from? Joe, our brilliant writer, had a similar experience to the trigger event of the play, when, as a teacher, he was drawing comic books at lunchtime with a lonely student. The rest unraveled from there... As for the title, if you're intrigued, you'll just have to come and watch to find out what Badgers have to do with it all...
Whilst exploring the pressures on teachers in the education sector, how does this show keep deeper meaning, and still incorporating lots of comedy? "You've got to make them laugh before you can make them cry." I think this saying rings true: that often comedy allows the audience to form a greater connection with the characters, so when they do reveal their difficulties and their reflections on the world, it hits even harder.
What research have you done surrounding teachers to be able to portray these issues, and why do you think this topic is important to highlight? Almost all of the cast and creative team have worked in schools, as teachers, TAs or tutors, allowing us to base our production from real-life experiences. Furthermore, we reached out to various teachers to hear their stories, experiences and reflections on the play. It's a vital topic to highlight, firstly as nearly everyone has experience of a school environment, learning and teaching in some form. And though there is a lot of publicity about the strain the NHS is put under and how it is the incredible workers keeping the whole thing from collapsing, there is not as much publicity about the pressures put on teachers to keep the education system afloat. This has led to increasing numbers of teachers unable to cope and leaving the industry, and so charities such as Education Support, do give them their full dedication. So we hope, by giving 10% of our profits to them, we can also help by raising awareness and funds to the cause.
What were you like at school, and back then, could you have seen yourself doing your current role in theatre? I'm certain I wanted to be an actor at school and soon enough realised just how much talent that requires! But I don't think I'd be surprised to find myself in my current role.
How is your show unlike any other at Edinburgh Fringe? The only show with the word Badgers in the title.
If that last answer hasn't sold it, I don't know what will! Thanks so much to Hamish for his answers, and giving a teaser about the show. The support for those working in the education sector is such an important cause to get behind.
Get your tickets to the show here:
Additional thanks to Mischa Alexander for coordinating this interview.