Teechers; Leavers 2022
Teechers: Leavers 2022 is the latest, new and improved version of John Godber’s 80’s smash hit – set in a failing comprehensive school where the kids are seen as annoyances and the teachers live to endure another day. For any one who has been a pupil, parent or even a teacher there is so much to recognise, resonate and remind you of (most of which prompts shivers of despair).
As you’d expect with John Godber, the writing is feisty, the energy high octane and the cutting social observations and commentary as true today as the original – it is somewhat heart-breaking to see that the almost perfunctory approach to education which was a symptom of 80’s government is once again prevalent in todays teaching establishments.
Updated for the here and now, it’s 2022 at Whitewall, a struggling academy that’s failed its Ofsted. Whitewall’s “led by donkeys” (a phrase that has become synonymous with our current government) with the teachers either disillusioned, disenfranchised or desperately looking to leave. It doesn’t help that their near neighbours are a fee paying private school, complete with all the privileges, facilities and prestige that money can, and does, buy.
Enter Miss Nixon (Terenia Barlow), an NQT teacher who sees Drama as a perfect way to free the minds of her students, allow them to think and act for themselves and challenge the social norms. She soon engages with Salty (Michael Aylotis), Gail (Ciara Morris) and Hobby (Barlow again) and lights in them a spark of belief. As a parent who had both daughters study GCSE Drama we saw first hand how far down the pecking order drama was – sad to think when we gave the world such luminaries as Shakespeare, Keats, Dickens, Pam Ayres and of course, John Godber.
The 3 young cast take us on a journey through the last 2 years of their senior years, played out under the guise of an end of school presentation, with them playing all parts; school bully Oggy, strict disciplinarian Dr Bashford, repressed PE teacher Jackie Prime, classmates, supply teachers, students of the posh St Georges and many more. That they do so without any costume changes is testament to their brilliant characterisations and wicked sense of fun and creativity. Played out against a backdrop of Covid-19, Tik Tok, current government and the never changing teen angst, Teechers makes for brilliant viewing yet, as with most of Godber’s plays, it pricks at your conscience and begs the question “Why, when we can all see how unfair and imbalanced education is, are we still prepared to let it happen”.
Teechers plays again at Darlington Hippodrome tonight (Thursday 30th March) and continues on its tour until the end of May.
Images credit: Savannah Photographic