A couple of weeks ago, I arrived at the Lawrence Batley Theatre a little early so that I could catch the box office before writing commenced in the attic. As the rest of the Write Now-ers arrived, I excitedly told them of my purchase of two tickets to see a new, avant-garde play in the guise of a selfish mother’s day gift for my mama, assuming she would bestow the other ticket on myself (and as we all know, one should never assume.)
What’s the play?
Teechers! It’s got three actors in it and its about –
Oh the John Godber Play
I love that play
It was written in the 80’s wasn’t it?
Yes, I saw it in Edinburgh in 1987
So you’ve heard of it then …
So, basically, my theatre knowledge is clearly not all its cracked up to be, alright! To be fair, I was but a foetus in 1987. I can’t be expected to know about things that were occurring outside of the embryonic sac around that time. Thankfully, mother dearest did allow me the second ticket (She had no choice really. I had cunningly booked the tickets on a day on which I knew my dad was working away and the siblings were otherwise engaged) and I’m so glad she did.
If you haven’t seen Teechers and would like to, I’ll not give the game away. I’m not Wikipedia. I’ll just say this (and possibly some other things): I had the best evening, and was thoroughly entertained every minute of the way. I always love plays that employ a small number of actors to portray many parts. The actors skilfully hop from one character to the next, inhabiting several contrasting skins, accents and mannerisms as comfortably as if they were slipping into a cosy onesie.
Sometimes the actor would announce who they were playing. Sometimes one of the characters was portrayed by all three actors at one point or another of the play. This was very cleverly done and certainly kept us on our toes in the audience. (Oh, she’s wearing the comically large glasses and fake nose so she’s Mr Basford now…)
Aside from the imaginative and playful presentation of the story, from what I read about this play before I saw it, I was told to expect the following: an inspection and exploration of the state of education, told from the point of view of three fifth form students in play form and the experiences of the new drama teacher. This was beautifully done with the three actors portraying so many characters throughout the play within a play. With each character’s return to the stage, they grew more likeable and by the end I was very fond of most of them (Not all. Oggy Moxon, for example, while entertaining and integral to the action cannot be described as a lovable character.)
As the play within the play put on by the three students comes to an end, you can’t help but feel all warm and emotional as they take their last steps off the stage and out of school forever. They are clearly sad to be moving on and hope that they can keep in touch with the teachers that they are leaving behind. They drag themselves away, choking back sobs and bleating their ‘goodbyes’ and ‘thank yous’. Audience members dab their eyes in sympathy. Awwww.
As it goes, I couldn’t help but watch through a rather heavy veil of cynicism in these closing scenes. If I did not already have hard evidence of the opposite, this play would have me believe that teaching is a heart-warming and fulfilling profession and I might have rushed to the nearest university to sign me up for that teacher training. But that’s for another post. Or a book. I could definitely fill a book on this topic. Don’t worry, I’ll never make you read it. It would be magnificently depressing. Kleenex would make a killing. I’d have you all in rehab quicker than you could say PUT THAT XYLOPHONE AWAY. NO, THAT IS A HUMAN CHILD’S HEAD, NOT A PERCUSSION INSTRUMENT. AM I SPEAKING ENGLISH OR DID THEY CHANGE THE MEANING OF SHUT THE FUCK UP?!
Such a magical time.
Nevertheless, I very much enjoyed watching Teechers. It had the whole audience in stitches. There were all sorts there; oldies, young ‘uns, a rather large group of school children… But everybody seemed to love it and I think it’s because we can all identify with or at least recognise the characters that Godber shares with us. Everyone had an annoyingly energetic and enthusiastic PE teacher; we all knew where the smokers convened; teachers do have designated seats in the staff room; the staff room is invariably organised into departments; there was that weepy, over qualified teacher who hated their job and all humans below the age of 27; and of course there was always the rival school. It doesn’t seem to have changed all that much since the ancient times of 1980’s Britannia. I don’t know whether this is a good or a bad thing, but Teechers is certainly still very relevant and hilarious.
So, what are you waiting for? Go forth, to the internet search engine of your choice; ignore the condescending squiggly lines and proudly proclaim to your computer screen, nay goggle! I did not mean “teachers”! I am not, as you wrongly assume, deficiently endowed in the spelling department; locate a theatre, be it near or far, and treat yourself to a ticket or two for your enjoyment and delight of this very brilliant play. You’ll love it, I promise.
*picture borrowed from http://www.thelbt.org