When they said Teechers was the Actors Studio’s first in-house production of the year, I didn’t think they meant it quite so literally. But the stars of this John Godber three-hander are the trio behind English Rice productions, who now run the place to boot.
And there could be no finer introduction to Cath Rice, Jo English and Barrie Ryan English as Gail, Hobby and Salty, three over-exciteable and hormonal teenagers at Whitewall secondary school. Kept in its 1980s setting – right down to an unedited inclusion of a Jimmy Savile impression at the school disco – this pared down work sees the three actors take on a multitude of roles, from energetic Aussie PE teachers to menacing school bullies. A combination of the clarity of Godber’s writing and the competence of our performers ensured this device worked very well. This likeable cast made it easy to suspend disbelief and head back to the classrooms of our youth – despite the set stretching to little more than a whiteboard, and change of characters often only indicated by a switch of glasses.
Central to the storyline was the arrival of a new teacher, Mr Nixon, who slowly brings his unruly class to appreciate his drama lessons. But he, like all his colleagues at the deprived state school, aspires to a prized position at the neighbouring private college.
It’s a cliche to say it, but all the issues raised by the play, from the injustices of the class system, social deprevation and the pressures of teaching, are just as relevant today as when it was first written in 1984. Yet once again that combination of Godber’s script and the direction of Barrie Ryan English ensured that the light-hearted elements of the piece were not bogged down in preaching melodrama.
Teechers is on at the Actors Studio until Saturday (March 9).