Tuesday 21st May 2019 at York Theatre Royal.
School gives us the best years of our lives, isn’t that how the saying goes? But it really depends on how you look at it. There are those who rule the roost with a snarl and a turbo-ego and those who spend their school years clinging to the wall merely praying for survival. And then of course there are those who never really leave…the teachers! John Godber’s irreverent comedy looks at school life through the eyes of both students and teachers in one big energised haze of hallway shenanigans and classroom stand-offs.
The play is filled with hilarious characters lithely ranging from your hard nuts to your awkward sorts – and such descriptors apply in both the classroom and staff room. Perhaps the greatest win for Godber here is the easy parallels drawn in the dynamics between student-teacher and teacher-senior teacher. The circle of life proves to be ever in motion…
This production of Teechers is performed with aplomb by a trio of dynamic actors who impress with their ability to shift between disparate roles in the snap of an octogenarian Maths teacher’s purse. Mahsa Hammat Bahary, Louis Roberts and Sarah Boulter channel various ages, genders, demeanours and chips on shoulders with skill and precision. It’s a cracking cast who make easy work of some of director Tom Wright’s more physical sequences as well as having the chops for the many identities they must take on, bringing Godber’s characters to life in all their risible or lovable glory.
Boulter is the stand out here, showcasing excellent dexterity across roles and the sharpest and most distinct take on each of them. Not one of her characters fails to land the laugh and it’s two of her characters who are the strongest: the vengeful caretaker and the infatuated, over-confident teen. Along with Roberts, Boulter is brilliant when it comes to the millisecond role switch, complete with polar emotion/voice/character. No easy feat and very impressive to watch.
Hannah Sibai’s designs are simple and functional, bypassing anything grand in favour of allowing the cast to show off ‘on the spot’ innovation skills as they parade around as some of the brighter students – the Christmas tree and the curtain being particularly effective features.
Wright astutely directs this haywire three hander and does so with one eye on timing and the other on landing the comedy. It’s a production which certainly delivers the comedy and keeps pace, handling the challenge of Godber’s fleeting episodic structure well. Eventually though, the set shuffling begins to feel like we’re in the loading dock of Ikea… There’s ambient bustle and then there’s needless Tetris – this show has both, though thankfully the former outweighs the latter.
As with his other work, Godber embeds some pointed political commentary within the rip-roaring action and wise cracking. Here he takes aim at the education system on two fronts: the elitism of ‘posh schools’ and the inevitable inferiority of all others, and the dog’s life led by teachers who find themselves in the kind of working environment where everything conspires against their honourable initial calling. Teechers doesn’t lecture, it merely points out the obvious, and of course, in the obvious lies the stark and undeniable truth.
This is a very funny show well worth seeing – I can’t say I saw the need for an interval for such a short show, but it does mean you can gets lots of laughs and ice cream in one evening – winner!
Teechers is a Gala Theatre and York Theatre Royal co production. It plays at York Theatre Royal until June 1st and you can find tickets here.
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