What a breath of fresh air! For the new Marlborough Young Actors’ first production this was a big ask: three young actors on stage for the entire production of John Godber’s play Teechers as they act a whole register of fellow students and a staff room of teachers.
And a merry and satisfying evening they made of it. Put on in St John’s Academy’s drama studio which seats about forty, and with minimal props and no raised stage, black-clad Carys Muirhead, Rosie Walker and David Higgins brought White Wall Comprehensive to life with some wicked impersonations and lively repartee.
Minimal props? But head teacher Mrs Parry’s yellow feather boa did have a starring role. And Mrs Parry – who sees fit to mix yellow and pink clothes – was central to the fun.
The three actors each had a turn at guying Mrs Parry – even David Higgins had his few seconds with the feather boa.
Salty (David Higgins), Gail (Rosie Walker) and Hobby (Carys Muirhead) are school leavers and they are putting on a play about the staff and about the staff putting on a play – so it gets quite tricky to knows who’s and what’s real.
Especially as Mrs Parry, who is best known for her all-male production of the Trojan Women and an eight-and-a-half hour production of the Pirates of Penzance, is putting on the Mikado.
The other main staff members are Mr Basford, who rules the timetable with an iron hand, and Geoff Nixon, the new drama teacher who falls for and loses PE teacher Jackie Prime. The plot, or plots, centre on Nixon – the inspirational drama teacher.
Nixon succumbs to the attentions of an infatuated Gail, who is in turn lusted after by Oggy, the school thug who is “as hard as nails…as hard as calculus”.
How, asks Oggy, will Mr Nixon punish him: “What are you going to do – make me pretend to be a tree?” Probably the best joke of the evening.
Rosie Walker was a delight as Gail who finds herself getting into Nixon’s “A-reg Escort” with Oggy taking the back seat. She also relishes playing Doug the Caretaker who cannot believe that drama classes should be allowed to sully his very clean Main School Hall.
Quite early on Gail, having ‘done’ Romeo and Juliet and the play about the two tramps and the man who never comes, declares “We’ve done all there is in drama”. So it’s quite a relief when they set about doing their play about the staff.
And along the way there’s a great team dance of the Ninjas who have somehow got mixed up with a French lesson – I think I lost the plot at that point.
After the interval we are in the run up to Christmas and a hilarious cabaret at the Christmas dance – once again featuring Mrs Parry and that yellow feather boa.
After the first night of Mrs Parry’s Mikado (which unaccountably rain for just 55 minutes), Carys Muirhead gives us a wonderful rendering of excerpts from her 'thank you' speech (which apparently went on for an hour.)
In between the fun and the jokes we get glimpses of serious issues about education. White Wall Comp is apparently known as Colditz at County Hall. One of the students asks: “Is this a school for thickies?”
Mr Nixon has a political spat with Basford who sends his kids to the nearest posh School, St George’s. He then escapes through Colditz’s fence to St George’s. And there he’ll bump into Mr Shaw who has had the nerve to marry Jackie Prime.
The school leavers feel they are trapped and do not want to leave school at sixteen: “Who traps us all? Politicians?” “They don’t care and they’re not bothered they don’t care.”
At the end we have a reprise of one of the play’s refrains – a shouted “Stop running Simon Paterson” – and finally “One last thing…” a reprise of Salty’s opening line which was probably spelled “…Bollox”. A great curtain line, not diminished at all by the lack of a curtain.
What, to remind you where we began, a breath of fresh air! Anna Friend produced and directed Teechers and her new enterprise deserves Marlborough’s support. It was a big ask and she certainly got these three young actors to answer it and answer it well.
I look forward to Marlborough Young Actors’ next production.
Auditions for the next production are on November 10 – followed by a series of workshops with rehearsals starting in January for a 2014 production. You can get in contact via the website.