Writer: John Godber
Director: Adrian McDougall
Reviewer: Ruth Jepson
Teechers was first performed in 1987, clearly written to pass social commentary on the Comprehensive versus Grammar Schools debate. Well, now it’s 2015, the names have changed to Inadequate and/or in Special Measures and Ofsted Outstanding with Academy Status, but the split is still very much evident, as this updated take on John Godber’s script brings home all too well.
Salty (Jacob Addley) Gail (Lucy Benson-Brown) and Hobby (Brad Clapson) are students presenting a fictionalised (honestly!) version of their school life as they prepare to leave Year 11 and join the scary world of adulthood. New teacher Mr Nixon has breathed some actual passion and ambition into them through his drama lessons, qualities the other teachers at school have never bothered to instil in the decidedly average students. The plot takes in an entire school year, seen through the eyes of these four characters with interjections from a variety of stereotypical students and teachers, all played by the very talented three actors. Some characters are only ever played by the one actor (Clapson’s Mrs Parry is by far the best of these, flamboyantly over the top and a guaranteed giggle maker), while other characters, like school bully Oggy Moxon, are taken on by each actor in turn. This multicasting trick is common to Godber’s work and lends itself well to this production, since we are meant to feel the sense of being at an underfunded school play. Costume and set are kept simple to add to this impression as well. School uniform is the only dress, but different characters wear them in different ways as a quick signifier, ably assisting the fantastic skills of the actors to show character switches not just through voices, but also physicality, facial expression and even the depth of the stereotype.
Addley, Benson-Brown and Clapson are all very talented at their craft, and clearly have been well directed in their rôles. It is Clapson who draws the eye most throughout the play however. He is constantly 100% in the moment, even when stood at the side while the other two play a scene. His range, from gawky embarrassed teenager, to dramatic Mrs Parry, is inspiring to see. Addley’s talent is in his connection with the audience, speaking to them not at them, which results in both comedy gold and emotional overload. Benson-Brown unfortunately doesn’t seem to get the same chances to shine, her parts less developed script wise, but she especially shines during the choreographed numbers to modern pop hits, and her Christmas disco dancing with the teacher is something to particularly watch for.
Teechers is, at heart, a great laugh with a serious message. Kids that attended underprivileged schools are often given the short end of the stick of life. Teachers that teach at these schools expend an enormous amount of effort and dedication to fighting for their students’ wellbeing and right to a future. Just ask any of the no doubt many teachers in the audience – in fact, take one with you, they’ll be both impressed and scared by how accurate everything is! While the stereotypes portrayed have the potential to be hackneyed, they are absolutely true, still, 28 years after that first performance. As for what that says about the modern education system, make up your own mind on that one…
Reviewed on: Saturday 21st March 2015