John Godber’s Teechers was first published in 1985, and save for the distinct lack of mobile phones, it’s hardly aged at all. This latest production from The Guildford Fringe Company and directed by Harry Blumenau is playing at The Churchill Theatre Bromley before a two-performance stint in Swindon.
This isn’t the company’s first time in Godber’s classroom, and two thirds of the cast (there’s only three in total) return to their original roles. The fact that the cast is comprised of a trio is particularly important, as John Godber has written at least twenty, as far as I could count, characters who make up the colourful ‘Whitewall’ secondary school.
It is a play within a play, as our three main characters; Salty, Hobby and Gail perform an end of term play about their time at school to their classmates and teachers, all inspired by a fresh faced drama teacher. They tell us that it most of it actually happened, but the names have been changed, so the inspirational educator, Mr Harrison becomes Jeff Nixon and the defacto narrator of the second play.
The extensive list of characters that are portrayed by the three pupils feel right at home at a below average comprehensive. The flamboyant headmistress with a misplaced confidence in staging the works of Gilbert and Sullivan, the archetypal school ‘hard-man’ in the form of Bobby (Oggy) Moxon, or the terrifying deputy head who rules with an iron fist, all feel like people we will all have met during our own education.
Sam Stay, Elle Banstead-Salim and Dannie Harris jump from character to character at astonishing speed, with seemingly no rhyme or reason to who’s playing who – a character played in one instance by Banstead-Salim will be played by Harris in the next. Surprisingly, it works. It’s a testament to the cast and Blumenau’s direction that the whirlwind of character swaps never gets confusing, but becomes an exciting game for the audience to keep pace with.
John Godber is clearly commentating on the state of the education system with this play, Whitewall always being compared to the more successful St George’s, which has better exam results and a choir playing in the courtyard. The tragedy is that it still feels so current thirty-four years after it was written. But it also highlights the positive effects of drama being taught in our schools, and the influence that a caring and committed teacher can have on a young person’s life.
Teechers is so full of energy and bursting with youthful enthusiasm it picks you up and takes you along for the ride. On the whole it’s a very funny comedy that doesn’t disappoint, and allows you to reminisce about your own time in the playground.
Mian Image: Teechers previous cast credit Chris Towndrow London Corporate Media