Stars explained: * A production of no real merit
with failings in all areas. ** A production showing evidence of not
enough time or effort, or even talent, and which never breathes any real
life into the piece – or a show lumbered with a terrible script. *** A
good enjoyable show which might have some small flaws but has largely
achieved what it set out to do.**** An excellent show which shows a
great deal of work and stage craft with no noticeable or major
flaws.***** A four star show which has found that extra bit of magic
which lifts theatre to another plane.
Mr Dean, Miss Jones, Miss Prime, Mr Harrison/Nixon, Mrs Parry, Mrs Whitham, Miss Hatton, Dot and Mr Basford
Teechers is a universal experience, a journey to a place we have all enjoyed or endured, school, with its timetables, its rules, its inspirational teachers and its timeservers, and its experiences, good and bad.
So John Godber’s play is set on familiar ground, with familiar characters such as the school bully, in this case Oggy Moxon, played with delicious in yer face sneering by Stan McDonald, who tells us he is as hard as . . . calculus. At least the boy learned something. Luckily his limited vocabulary is augmented by his spokesman Dennis, small, and one suspects protected from the cockiness he shows, in a lovely performance from Amit Mevorach.
And at Whitewall Comp (school motto Deus Adiuva Nos – God help us) we have the traditional pitbull, the strict disciplinarian deputy head, Mr Basford, who, you suspect, would have been much happier in the days when he could rule by swishing cane rather than his stern manner full of bile in a gloriously angry performance from Robert Fretwell.
And above him we have the head, beautifully played by Roni Mevorach, a Stage2 regular who matures with each production. She is a head who is happy to use all her female charms for . . . The Mikado. School appears to be a sort of pastime, her real passion, apart from a timetable that needs a PhD in logistics and cryptography to work out, is the local G&S society where she is director and it appears, driving force, and like a lioness on the prowl, she can smell fresh meat – in this case Mr Harrison, who to add to the confusion is called Jeff Nixon for most of the play. He is a Ko-Ko made flesh for her latest production if ever she saw one.
Mr Harrison is the new drama teacher fresh from training and young and unsullied enough to still have ideals, believing all children had a right to a good education with good facilities, something that should not be the preserve of rich parents sending their kids to the posh schools, like St George’s down the road.
Thomas Browning gives us a good range from mild mannered newbie hoping to help children, to frustration at kids, like Oggy, beyond help and anger at the unfairness of the system, which comes to a head when he discovers Basford, who lives in the school’s catchment area, ships his sons 10 miles a day to St George’s, leading to an almighty staff room row – Basford’s temper not being helped by the fact he is being overlooked in the casting of The Mikado in favour of Mr Nixon.
Dennis reading some titbit from a more licentious publication hidden in the Beano with a leather clad Oggy and pupils paying £1 a peek.
And why is he Nixon? The premise of the play was that it was a three hander, with three pupils, Hobby, Gail and Salty, putting on a play at the end of their final term before they head off into the world.
In the original from 1985 they played all the characters, more than 20, but Godber stated it could just as easily be played by 20 actors – or in Stage2’s case by 26 with a nine strong ensemble as well.
We meet a whole range of characters such as Dot, the cleaner, played in rollers and a bolshy attitude by Georgie Nott, Miss Prime, the PE teacher, sexy and she knows it, played by Maddi Stewart – who looks a natural when she dances and can do things with her hair when dancing you would not believe.
We have the teachers such as Mrs Whitham played by Emily Cremins, who is all set to leave and Miss Jones, played by Carys Levesley, who spends more time at interviews than teaching as she tries to get out but no one will employ her and then there is Mr Dean, played by Harrison Allen, the teacher who runs the out of date school disco at dances, assisted by Miss Hatton, played by Murriam Murtaza.
Mr Dean is a bit of a dad dancer, but thinks he is John Travolta, and is under the mistaken impression that he is down wif the yoof and all the kids love him . . .wrong.
Around them all we have a splendid collection of kids, including Kairo Palmer as Simon Patterson who spends the whole play being told not to run, and Ava Forest, as the girls who gets lost and takes a shine to kindly Mr Harrison/Nixon.
In the trio’s play within a play the names are changed to protect . . . well the names are changed and Harrison becomes Nixon, which you would have known had you been listening at the back . . . it’s your own time you are wasting. Ah, the joys of school.
Thus we have the trio of Violette Townsend-Sprig as Hobby, practical and almost sensible who is to end up working on a farm – her mini-sound effects are a nice touch incidentally, then Josie Rowbottom as the flirty Gail, who has a thing about Mr Nixon, which needs strong cider and spring onions to fulfil . . . don’t ask, and finally Byron Creavin-Jerwood as Salty, confident, outgoing and scared to death of leaving school. He is hardly a star pupil and has taken to learning rather like, well, a brick to water. As far has school goes he is leaving with nothing, a failure, or is it school that has failed him?
Is Mr Harrison right that there is one education system for the well off and another for the less so . . .
In the second overtly political speech he pours his heart out to Mrs Parry. He might not be the ideal student but it is a world he knows and at least some of the teachers, Mr Harrison/Nixon in particular, care. Once he leaves the system, the Government, no one in authority gives a damn about him and, what is worse no one is bothered that they don’t care.
The play is the only thing the trio have done that the trio have cared about, the only thing they have achieved and the play ends with them pleading for Mr Harrison to stay.
Harrison/Nixon has sold out, or seen the light, depending upon your point of view, and is leaving for St George’s with its better facilities, better teachers and better reputation.
Director Liz Light has managed to make the kids look like, well, kids. Which sounds easy, but on stage, with an audience, looking natural, looking like kids really look as they flood out of classrooms, or out of school, is not easy.
And as always with Liz Light productions, there are no statues. Anyone on stage has to act, be alive, be a person, which makes even crowd scenes look interesting. all the time. She keeps up a cracking pace and with a set consisting of stools creates a whole school world as scenes merge into scenes speedily and seamlessly.
Perhaps the most remarkable thing about this production is the lack of familiar faces. Many of the cast only joined in the current term and this is their first show, which shows some excellent potential coming through the ranks. The end result is another enjoyable and first class production from Stage 2. To 22-04-17.