Review: Back in the jug agane


Paul Taylor
Tuesday 29 June 1999 23:02

"WERE YOU a Blue Peter child?" asked the woman next to me, casting a doubtful eye over my handiwork. The man on the other side was cradling a tiny baby in one arm and he was still making a better fist of things than me.

Adults newly enrolled into Bobby Baker's Grown-Up School, we were sitting at low tables in a classroom at Brecknock Primary, skewering strawberries on cocktail sticks in an effort to construct our very own little family of Berries - Big, Bad and Baby - the Three Sisters of the fruit world and stars of the story teacher Bobby proceeds to tell.

The idea was to create tripod-like supports for your girls, but my versions of Big, Bad and Baby kept doing the splits in the most indecorous manner and when, at one point in Baker's strawberry-centred saga, they were called on to trip in figure-eights around each other in imitation of a grown-up barn dance, my lot lost the will to live. I reckoned they'd been genetically modified.

In the LIFT programme, Baker says: "We'll all have this experience of being placed back in a humble, vulnerable position." In its gentle, delightfully whimsical way, the show did indeed take me right back to the entire year I spent failing to make a fish slice under the furious glare of a sadist I hope is now rotting in Hell. Say what you like about its imaginative constrictions, but one definite advantage of adulthood is that, if you've absolutely set your heart on a family of strawberry stick-people, you can always pay somebody to make it for you.

Wearing a distinctly sexy outfit of starched white uniform, with dangling medicine spoon, and pinkish knee-length boots, Baker - with her radiant, faintly unnerving smile, and her manner that's an elusive mix of the deeply normal and the deeply eccentric - is a teacher you would want to give more than an apple. When, at a scary juncture in the story, she roguishly invited people to come and be comforted on her knee, I am surprised there wasn't a stampede. That's one of the things about primary school that you tend to forget. Even if you went, like me, to an establishment run largely by nuns and with a head who was Mussolini in a wimple, life had its fair share of erotic sensations.

"Grown-Ups need to let their inner childs out," is one of the comments in the parallel project/exhibition by Brecknock pupils on the idea of a school for grown ups. If, like the philosopher Roger Scruton, you feel that the whole point of childhood is to learn that the plural of child is "children", stay well away. Everyone else will find it a Proustian tonic.

To 2 July, 0171-638 8891

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