It is very interesting to re-visit Teechers by John Godber which seemed to me in 1987 refreshing and relevant as well as highly entertaining. The education system has undergone so many changes in the last quarter century, however, that the publicity claim that it puts the education system under the microscope is rather over-stating things. Godber is quite right to point out in the programme that subjects like Drama are being marginalised again, but the play deals with traditional school figures and the play now seems no more than a bit of fun – but fun's no bad thing!
The ingenious premise for the play is that three fifth form Easter leavers are putting on a show for their fellow leavers about their last year at school – there we are, showing our age already, Easter leavers are a thing of the past and the fifth form is Year 11! This allows them to put on silly voices and do impressions and funny walks (the movement in this production is excellent) in the way you'd expect of 16-year-olds. They act out entertaining scenes involving characters ranging from teachers on the verge of breakdown to hulking bullies on the prowl, from grumpy caretaker to old-style Deputy Head. I am less convinced by the transformative powers of the idealistic Drama teacher who somehow turns three lazy no-hopers into articulate protagonists for liberal education who beg him not to leave the school for a more appealing job. John Godber was, of course, an astonishingly successful Drama teacher and his views on education make a deal more sense than Michael Gove's, but they come out here as naively optimistic.
But Hannah Chissick's production for the Wakefield Theatre Royal and the John Godber Company is certainly fun! Inventive and well-drilled, it benefits from some bold casting of very inexperienced actors. Laura Bryars and, in her professional stage debut, Frances Wood are screamingly authentic as teenagers and switch roles nimbly while James Dryden takes his share of the caricatures and carries the weight of the one serious part effectively as a disarmingly modest Messiah of a Drama teacher.
Teechers tours until the end of November, then again in the New Year. Autumn dates in Yorkshire are: