Classroom Comedy Caper keeps Spotlight on Inequality
Ciara Morris, Michael Ayiotis and Terenia Barlow.
Teecher’s Leavers, Albany Theatre, Coventry, 25 May.
Review by Annette Kinsella.
Schooldays are supposed to be the best days of your life, the old saying goes. I personally can’t agree as the endless torment of failing to fit in and being the object of the cool kids’ jokes wore me down. And that’s just my experience of teaching.
However, I overcame my trauma enough to visit the Albany Theatre to see John Godber’s classic Teechers Leavers, souped up from his original 80s script for a 21st century audience. The story centres on sink estate secondary school Whitewall Academy where the new drama teacher Miss Nixon is helping stage Year 11’s grand finale play.
Cast members Michael Ayiotis, Terenia Barlow and Ciara Morris had their work cut out, deftly taking the parts of all 21 teachers and staff with aplomb. Their quick swaps in and out of character sometimes felt frenetic but kept the action rattling along at a fair old pace. Barlow in particular impressed, playing wide-eyed idealist Miss Nixon with the energy of a young Sheridan Smith.
A+ performances from Terenia Barlow, Ciara Morris and, Michael Ayiotis..
The play was directed by Adrian McDougall, and although the set – a graffiti-ed set of desks on a school gym floor – remains unchanged from the 80s, the addition of Tik Tok dances and social media places the action firmly in present day. More depressingly, the same issues highlighted by Godber 40 years ago are still present – the school is in a ruinous state, the staff demoralised, the students struggling with the grind of poverty, whereas neighbouring posho St George’s, not content with showering pupils with top-flight resources and opportunities, are hellbent on poaching promising teaching staff. The ending, when it comes, curtails the comedy abruptly with the realisation there is no happy ending for the kids condemned to lives of little ambition and even less opportunity.
Although it’s a sad indictment that four decades have failed to solve the social inequality which initially inspired Godber, this doesn’t detract from the punch and vigour of the play, equalled by the verve of the cast, which keeps the audience laughing. It’s an A+ from me.
See forthcoming productions at the Albany Theatre: https://www.albanytheatre.co.uk/