Beloved by generations of girls, Enid Blyton’s Malory Towers is as enduring a tale as the great writer’s The Famous Five or Secret Seven.

This week it is on stage at the Oxford Playhouse in a show adapted and directed by Emma Rice and her new company Wise Children. And, just like the books which inspired the production, this thoroughly updated ‘girl power’ twist on the classic tales of boarding school life, is appealing to all ages.

The show carries all the nostalgia and naughtiness of the original with high jinks, high drama and high spirits, all set to sensational live music and breathtaking animation.

It tells the story of the quick-tempered Darrell Rivers who is starting school along with the infuriating Gwendoline Lacey, kind hearted Sally Hope and terrified Mary Lou – who needs rescuing from a raging storm – all of which threatens to derail the school play. High drama indeed!

“I’ve always been drawn to the years that followed the Second World War,” says Emma.

Oxford Mail:

“It’s a time that feels close enough to touch, as I vividly remember my grandparents and how the war affected their lives. My Mum’s parents – poor and largely uneducated – decided that their children would have access to all the things that they hadn’t. I don’t know how they managed it on a railway worker’s pay, but my mother was sent to a remote grammar school in Dorset: Lord Digby’s School for Girls.

“While not a boarding school, Lord Digby’s was an extraordinary place of learning that changed my mother’s, and by extension my own, life. The tendrils of passion and education that Lord Digby’s stood for reach out across 60 years and more. They reached out over my inner city comprehensive education and have shaped my own beliefs and choices to this day.

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“My adaptation of Malory Towers is dedicated to the generation of women who taught in schools in that period. With lives shaped by the savagery of two wars, these teachers devoted themselves to the education and nurture of other women.

Oxford Mail:

“It is also for the two generations of men that died in those same wars, leaving us with the freedom to lead meaningful, safe and empowered lives. And it is for Clement Attlee and his Labour government of 1945 who looked into the face of evil and chose to do what was right. These people changed the political landscape in their focus on care, compassion and the common good.”

She adds: “Malory Towers was written at the heart of this political revolution, and embodies a kindness, hope and love of life that knocks my socks off. ‘Long live our appetites and may our shadows never grow less!’ the girls cry.

“My mother wrote to her teachers at Lord Digby’s until they died and is still friends with many of the girls she met there. And when I see my Mum, born into the poorest of rural backgrounds, enjoying Dickens and Almodovar and speaking French to her childhood pen-friend, I am stopped in my tracks.

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"She went on to dedicate her life to the NHS and the helping of others whilst never losing her appetite for life, culture and hope. I salute her, and I cheer the education that threw this mind and soul into the air and said, ‘be a woman that the world can lean on’.

Oxford Mail:

“I made Malory Towers, with gratitude, hope and sheer pleasure! I call it my ‘Happy Lord of the Flies’ and it is joyfully radical to its bones. Imagine a world where (left to their own devices), people choose kindness. Imagine a world where difference is respected and arguments resolved with thought and care. Imagine a world that chooses community, friendship and fun. Now that’s a world I want to live in and, at Malory Towers, you can!”

Malory Towers is at Oxford Playhouse until Saturday. Go to or call the box office on 01865 305305