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by on 26 January 2022

Smashing It


 by John Godber

Teddington Theatre Club, Hampton Hill Theatre, until 29th January

Review by Gill Martin

Three young actors.  Countless characters. One stage. A theatre in the round.

Teddington Theatre Company smashes it!

Teechers, a comic play by John Godber, could have been the inspiration for Derry Girls and The Inbetweeners.   It was first performed in 1987 but scores top marks for resonating with current issues.  It seems particularly relevant post-Covid when so many children have had their education severely disrupted, and when the gap between privileged and struggling schools has widened.

This frantic play within a play depicts three pupils, Gail, Hobby and Salty, along with their newly qualified drama teacher Mr Nixon, attempting to navigate a tortured journey through school life, social policy, bureaucracy, teenage crushes and thuggish bullies.

The trio dominate the stage to address the audience directly: ‘All we want you to do is use your imagination, because there’s only three of us and we all have to play different characters … and narrators, so you’ll have to concentrate!’

In fact Josh Clarke, who plays young Salty, Caroline Gudge (Hobby) and Joanna Taylor (Gail) also have to nail twenty other characters ranging from gushing headmistress and idealistic drama teacher to scary school bully and grumpy caretaker.  They gender bend, playing parts of different ages and vastly different personalities, exploring their hang-ups and insecurities.

It’s dazzlingly fast paced so we did have to concentrate, relying on minimal props (Elton John spectacles, a ruler, wafting scarf, tweed jacket and hats) and actors’ talent.

Fizzing with comic one-liners, the dialogue comes thick and fast. There’s poignancy too, with the realisation that as pupils of Whitewall High comprehensive school, with its 1500 kids and in a Special Priority Area, they could be treated like rhubarb.  ‘Keep them in the dark and shit on them’ is the general idea.

‘They call this school Colditz,’ moans one harassed teacher.  ‘Everyone is desperate to get out.’  How different from the snobby St. George’s school down the road, with its top facilities and high achieving children.

Drama, thanks to Mr Nixon, could be the saviour for the swearing, smoking low-achievers of Whitewall.

Director Asha Gill certainly echoes this in her programme notes, ‘We started our rehearsal process , a year  late, by first discussing all the different experiences we all had at school. Going to different schools, at different times, with very different personalities, one thing united us.  Unsurprisingly it was drama, where we could step out of our shells, be silly, and develop and understand our own identity without fear of ridicule.’

You can’t help feeling for one of the sixteen-year-olds, who fears ridicule as a late developer leaving school for the adult world. ‘Out there nobody cares,’ he says, blaming politicians.  ‘Men on the telly with funny haircuts. They’re liars.  They don’t care. And they’re not bothered they don’t care.’  It seems Godber, one of the UK’s most performed playwrights, had an eye on the future.

The writer who brought us BouncersShakers and September in the Rain says of this play: ‘At the heart of Teechers is the very real assertion that the arts, and especially drama, should form an essential part of the school curriculum.  It also attempts to demonstrate the effect that exposure to the arts has on young people.’

Teechers wears its age lightly with its talented young cast.  The lively music, from the Runaways, The Smiths, Nirvana and Ozzy Osbourne to name just a few tracks, keeps up the pace.

And the backstage crew, led by Mike Elgey, successfully tackled the transformation of Hampton Hill Theatre to build a set in the round and bring all the audience closer to the boisterous action.

Gill Martin, January 2022

Photography by Jojo Leppink, Handwritten Photography

One Comment
  1. Sunny Bisla permalink


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