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August 24 2019
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The cast of Malory Towers performs at the Passenger Shed, in Bristol. Their U.K.-wide tour finishes at the Oxford Playhouse on October 5.

Boarding schools have always made for great drama—stories set in confined spaces have inherent tension. This is something British writer Enid Blyton saw immediately, and the reason why, beginning in 1946, she wrote Malory Towers, a series of six books based on a group of inky-fingered schoolgirls in Cornwall, England. In their day, Blyton’s books sold into the hundreds of millions and were translated into 90 languages, beloved for their apt portrayal of devious students devouring penny sweets and wreaking havoc. Now, Emma Rice, the former artistic director of Shakespeare’s Globe and herself a renegade, has adapted the stories for the stage. Drawn to the strength and substance of the story lines, Rice has called Malory Towers her “happy Lord of the Flies,” describing it as “joyfully radical to its bones.” Developing the show under her own production company, Wise Children, Rice has sought to maintain the books’ original plot while simultaneously modernizing the story to reflect Britain today, casting non-white actors in certain roles and a non-binary actor in the part of the tomboy, Bill. A nostalgic romp with the right amount of sisterhood and spirit, Malory Towers proves just as engaging as the series that preceded it. —Bridget Arsenault

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