by Patrick Neylan
English Literature A
John Godber’s script is an ingenious take on how pupils view education and how teachers see it. We saw how a moment of inspiration can turn the most disaffected children into enthusiastic pupils. The play essentially follows a new drama teacher at a mediocre comprehensive through his first year, as he tries to turn theatre into a valid, eye-opening part of the curriculum rather than a doss subject. What could have been an inconsequential comedy about schools touched upon far more, with particular insight into how the system grinds down both pupils and teachers.
Excellent division skills; showed aptitude in the difficult exercise of sharing over a dozen characters of varying ages among three actors. The choice of three teenage actors – Isobel Edwards, Edie Nelson and Josh Williams-Ward – to play both teachers and pupils brought a fresh perspective that made the students all the more realistic without detracting from the adults.
Jess Jenner’s production managed to use the confined space of the bar as an advantage rather than a restriction. Schools are big spaces, but every space within that school is a tiny space where the drama of life is played out and characters are formed.
There has always been a fear that children in state schools get a better education than those in private and grammar schools. This theme was allowed to run nicely beneath the surface without interfering with the more important topic of the relationships within the school.
English Language B+
In the practical exam, the cast occasionally missed words or swallowed them, but the positive pay-off was that the performance maintained its energy, which to my mind was more important in this production.
The three cast members worked well together as an ensemble, and I was particularly impressed by the way they swapped characters. Worthy of particular note is the way that Josh sometimes established male characters and then left them to Isobel and Edie, as he was swept up with the drama teacher’s story.
Movement was quite incredible at times, especially with Josh’s gravity-defying gymnastics on the rafters. Overall, the co-ordination of movement demonstrated clear and careful planning rather than the random Brownian motion that is better suited to the Chemistry syllabus. As the playwright said, everything is stripped down the bare essentials, with a couple of chairs adapted (as in a drama lesson) to build an entire school through the actors’ ability to create their own universe.
We also saw a hilarious production of Marat Sade, using dry shampoo sprayed in the air to create atmosphere, which, while not quite capturing the full sweep of the French Revolution, captured the spirit of drama in small spaces.
How to fit a Daisy Pulls It Off-style tennis match in a tiny space? It was something quite brilliant to behold as Josh mimed serving, with the women providing sound effects. The physicality was also on display as Josh threatened to pull the ceiling down as he swung on the rafters. Audience members who are alarmed by this are advised to indulge in BLT’s fundraising efforts, which will help pay for roof repairs.
Un Dos Trio? Don’t they know their French? But Isobel’s French teacher was highly plausible and was symptomatic of the portrayal of different teachers with discrete characters, performed by all the cast at varying times.
Design & Technology A*
Light and sound timings were perfect, with Jasmin Nancekivell-Smitth and Alicia Foreman showing impeccable timing in the light and sound box – a skill that is harder than it seems and is often overlooked. The bar is notoriously difficult to light but any blind spots were invisible.
Form teacher’s comment
Overall, I feel Miss Jenner has produced an excellent body of work, and the performance of Teechers suggests a serious talent for staging. I think that Ms Jenner and her cast will create more productions of high artistic value, and that these should be seen by a wider audience. Without resorting to hyperbole, or indeed suggesting that this production matched or bettered any of my own productions in the bar, I would suggest that this was one of the most enjoyable productions – bar or main stage – that we have