Teechers, by John Godber, was first aired in 1987 but is still as relevant today. It tells the story of Salty, Hobby and Gail, three fifth formers about to leave school having achieved very little. As a parting gesture, they put on a performance giving an account of their memories of the school and in particular their time with the one teacher who could motivate them: Mr Harrison.
Mr Harrison (aka Nixon) arrives at the school newly-qualified and full of good intentions. He believes any child, given the right support, can be turned around. Inevitably we see his spirit sapping away from him as he’s confronted by a system interested only in results. He comes into conflict not only with Oggy the school bully, but also with Bashford, the deputy head whose brusque and peremptory manner is easy to dislike. That he turns out to be spiteful and vindictive makes it even easier.
I had mixed expectations about the play. A Daily Info review of a 2008 production described it as unsuitable for children. As I was taking my twelve-year-old son along this didn’t augur well. In addition, student productions can be hit and miss. With this in mind, I approached the intimate space of the Burton Taylor Studio with caution.
I need not have worried. It really was brilliant! The three actors were very capable and funny in their many roles (they each play several members of staff and other pupils); their comic timing was excellent. The play is fast paced and the 80s music provides a frenetic soundtrack and happy memories for people of a certain age. Yes, there is some choice language, but not a great deal of it and nothing that cannot be heard in the 8am throng of pupils en route to secondary schools in Oxford.
My son really enjoyed it. He laughed from beginning to end and empathised with some of the characters. There is such a great chasm between pantomime and adult theatre with nothing on offer that will interest those too old for the former, but too young for the latter. Teechers fits the bill perfectly and on the way home he told me which of his teachers he recognised in the play: all of them, apparently.
The only disappointing part was to see empty seats. This play deserves an audience and I’d urge anyone of secondary school age or above to go and see it; don’t be dilatory, it only runs until Saturday and at £6 a ticket, what’s not to like?