Several of John Godber's earlier plays present a vivid comic snapshot of a particular activity or occupation via a small cast changing roles rapidly in frequently inspired ensemble playing. When I first saw Teechers in 1987, it seemed an inventive and insightful example of the genre, one that struck pupils and teachers in our school party as reflecting our shared predicament with accuracy and humour.
Sadly, little of that feeling remains. The main reason is that schools have changed and Godber’s updates have pitched the play not into the present, but into a historical no man’s land. The references to targets, for instance, do not sit well with the aimlessness of a school which clearly predates the gentrification that has now overtaken our education system. The play also now seems unaccountably preachy, with the Drama teacher as redemptive force.
The production, too, lacks the strength of John Godber’s best ensemble tours de force. The actors work energetically as the three pupils who assume multiple roles, but the Stephen Joseph’s “in the round” staging exposes rather too much mugging and the pertly versatile Zoe Lister’s lines don’t always reach those behind her. Claire Eden assumes a mighty range of voices, many of them exaggerated, and Peter McMillan fares best through playing a normal straight character (the Drama teacher) for large parts of the evening.