Teechers

Date 28th March 2014
Society Ponteland Repertory Society
Venue The Memorial Hall, Ponteland
Type of Production Play
Director Carole Davies

Report

Author: Michael L. Avery

Teechers is a play by John Godber.  It is quite a complicated concept.  A play within a play with (in this version) six actors playing multiple parts.  However, if you relax and let it flow over you or, occasionally, attack you it starts to makes perfect sense.  Initially they play pupils, about to leave Whitewalls High School, who put on an end of term play giving a taste of school life in a second class comprehensive. They morph into the characters in their play – teachers, pupils, the school caretaker.  It reminded me of my school.  If we’d been caught using the language of these pupils, we would have been caned!  It was a long time ago.

The effect of the language on the audience was interesting.  Initially, some shocked, but quiet, gasps but also spontaneous laughs from different sections of the audience.  As they got used to the rich dialogue the laughs became more general especially if, like for me, they were reminiscent of “the best days of our lives”.  The play was written in 1984 but it is pretty timeless.  School staff rooms have probably not changed much and the costumes bring it into the 21st century, plus a mention of Michael Gove!

The cast was made up of Gavin Redhead and Adam Thompson, who I was able to identify, plus Charlotte Stone, Lucy Walton, Stephen Stokoe and Johnny Woollett.  They all deserve congratulations, moving smoothly from one character to another with only the occasional, very slight costume adjustment to help.  There was a lot of in-view changing going on but, mainly, a baseball cap on back-to-front or a school tie worn like a red indian (should I say native American?) around the forehead or a pair of spectacles was enough to remind the audience which character they were watching.

My favourite character/performance was Doug, played by Adam, the most cantankerous caretaker you could ever meet – sweeping up the hall before the drama group has finished its rehearsal.  I know, you have all been there.  He was hilarious.  But there was also poor Mr Nixon/Harrison, the new teacher, who was really the straight man of the piece.  He found himself neither accepted by the pupils nor the staff, although at the moment of parting, at the end of term, the pupils’ affection for him became apparent.  And then there’s that Gail Saunders, the little vixen, determined to snog him at the Christmas party.  She missed, but only because he turned away at the crucial moment.  Unfortunately, the programme does not identify the players individually and it is really, in any event, iniquitous to pick anyone out.  The cast looked young enough to pass back and forth between the young and adult characters and all their performances were realistic, funny, moving, sad. 

On the night I attended, the hall was quite full but I gather that was the exception rather than the rule.  It is a shame more people didn’t attend.  I know plays are generally less popular than musicals but this one deserved a bigger audience.  I was genuinely impressed and enjoyed the performance immensely.  Congratulations to director Carole Davies, who also guided the Society through ‘Allo ‘Allo last year, and to everybody else involved.