Dated 4th October 2013
By David Slater, NODA NW
Fighting in the Schoolyard; Janet Spooner, Michael Gill, Dan Clay and Christine Kidd play both teachers and students in John Godber's Teechers
NODA Review - Teechers by John Godber
NODA Review - Teechers by John Godber
John Godber's play 'Teechers' takes an audience on a nostalgic trip back to their childhood, attempting to find humour in the world of the classroom. As a teacher myself, I'm constantly surprised at the gulf between what people - and playwrights - imagine school life to be like and the unfortunate truth. However, this being a humorous play and not a fly on the wall documentary, I shall put my soapbox away before I start on an inappropriate rant! Originally a piece intended for three performers who divide all the various parts up between them, director Matt Parker very wisely decided to share the parts out among a larger cast of five which meant that characters could be fleshed out and developed: a good decision Matt.
Some really outstanding performances really lifted this slight theatrical piece and a large audience went away thoroughly entertained. A simple and deliberately minimal and open set, with a minimum of props and stage furniture, gave the performers the chance to bring their various characters to life and for the audience to really colour the stage with their imagination - stage business was slick and meticulously rehearsed with the performers on stage given every opportunity to really get their characterizations across really filling the auditorium with their larger than life, well drawn characterizations. The choice of musical extracts which punctuated the play were inspired and well chosen, often seeming to come right out of the pages of the script, so seamlessly were they woven into the fabric of the evening's entertainment. Without a weak link in the cast, TAODS produced an entertaining and at times thoughtful piece which did Godber's script more than justice.
Dan Clay played the central character of Mr Nixon with confidence and charm, really inhabiting the character and taking the audience with him on his voyage of discovery at his new school. Slipping effortlessly between the characters of Mr Nixon and cheeky schoolboy Salty, Dan's performance was excellent. Christine Kidd, doubling up as the adolescent Gail and hard-done-to teacher Miss Whitham, also excelled, giving two very distinct but totally believable characters, bringing the most out of each character superbly. Janet Spooner was comically dopey as schoolgirl Hobby and also captured the 'right-on' pashmina-trendy Mrs Parry. Mrs Parry - the amateur G&S obsessed senior teacher - is an inspired creation and is the character in the play who comes closest to being an archetypal comic stereotype of the Ayckbourn variety and Janet really got stuck in to making the most of all the characters she portrayed. Andy Fraser really had fun with his portrayal of strict Mr Basford and made a hilarious job of bringing to life a delectable female PE teacher: full marks there for some great comic moments! Michael Gill really got his teeth into school bad boy Oggy Moxon, giving a strong performance which was confident and assured. The cantankerous school caretaker was also superbly well drawn and was a firm favourite with the audience: the school caretaker who resents the presence of staff and pupils cluttering up his school is certainly a fact of life in every school I have ever worked in and was brought to life with comical accuracy.
All the performers really shone on stage in their multiple roles and it was clear that this had been a very happy production: it was great to see such a talented cast really enjoying themselves, their boundless energy and enthusiasm was infectious and carried the audience along with them. Excellent stagecraft from the performers and strong technical support in every direction made the whole enterprise a typically strong and assured TAODS production with Matt Parker inspiring great things from his cast, making a slight script come alive. It is a mark of a strong production, an imaginative director and a talented cast when an average script can be turned into a great evening's entertainment and that is precisely what happened here: gold stars all round!