Review: Teechers at Ilkley Playhouse

WELL, if Ofsted were to visit these ‘Teechers’ they would be very impressed by the ‘pace’. Opening at Ilkley Playhouse’s Wildman Theatre on Monday for a sold-out run, the cast of John Godber’s play embodied all those characters that are so familiar in every educational institution across the country.

Taking on all the roles from pupils to caretakers, staff and headteacher, Andy Price, Sarah Potter and Helena Helm strut, slouch, leap and run across the stage portraying each role convincingly, hilariously and at times, desperately.

Switching seamlessly from school bullies to love lorn teenagers, from cynical, worn teachers to the aspirational newly qualified, the actors first break the fourth wall to explain their purpose before launching into a whistle stop tour through school life – as true today as it was when it was written in the 1980s.

Tim Mutton’s versatile set allows the furniture to become whatever is needed – the cloakroom becomes the staff room, the tables are desks, or platforms or an umpire’s seat. The actors use these with great daring and energy, leaping on and off the wobbly benches with a sense of teenage invincibility. A soundtrack of eighties hits and lighting which accentuated the various moods and locations, added to the overall picture sensitively and appealingly.

Revolving around the character of the new drama teacher, Mr Nixon, (whose very name is hilarious to the teenage girls apparently), we watch as he makes his first tentative steps with the students. They tell him they have already ‘done everything in drama’ from Shakespeare to ‘different versions of hell’. But these are the same students who plead with him not to take up his next appointment - at the school with decent equipment and decent kids….

Liberally littered with traditional and relatable school mottos – ‘Stop running in the corridors’, ‘fingers on lips’, ‘no-one can work and talk – not even me’, it’s no wonder that this play has such popular appeal. But it is Miranda Armitage’s skilful and perceptive direction and the great skill of these actors, which elevates the text from cliché to a deeper commentary on school life, as familiar today as it was at its inception.

Hard luck if you didn’t bag yourself a seat – you could get on the waiting list for returns…. It runs until Saturday, February 8th.

by Becky Carter