School-days are supposedly the happiest days of our lives and, for those of us who left school far too many years ago to recall, still provide some vivid memories.
Despite changes in fashions and teaching practices, the same character traits still inhabit our classrooms. The bullies, the nerdy, the under-achievers, the ones lacking self confidence – and that’s just the staff.
Former teacher John Godber drew on his classroom experiences 23 years ago to write Teechers and now, nearly a quarter of a century on, is directing an updated touring production. Actually it needs little updating, as the raucous laughter of the cross generational audience shows, it doesn’t matter if you are still at school or left a ‘couple’ of years ago – the characters remain the same. Yes, Godber has added in some updated lines about special measures, sats and mobile phones but the crux of the production remains unaltered.
Three almost-school leavers perform a play they have devised themselves based not too loosely on their own school experience. Playing both staff and pupils, we see that, despite appearances, the two groups have more in common than they’d ever admit. Teechers, though, is also an examination of the power of drama to reach young audiences and it’s a two pronged approach. The three wayward pupils come to realise that drama is more than EastEnders and Hollyoaks and the accessible nature of this production hopefully will tempt a new audience that theatre is for them.
For Teechers to work well it needs a talented and versatile cast. Adults playing teenagers playing adults can easily turn into caricature but this touring cast is top-notch. Claire Eden, Zoë Lister and Peter McMillan make each of the multitude of characters they play fully rounded and believable, easily switching from pupil to teacher. Its fast-paced, manic fun but also packs an emotional punch.
It may be 23 years old but the final bell isn’t close to being run on this show yet.