Tuesday, 5 October 2010

Teechers Devonshire Park Theatre Eastbourne Review

John Godber's
Devonshire Park Theatre
5th-9th October 2010

Performance seen 5th October

Cast (alphabetical)

Claire Eden Hobby
Zoe Lister Gail
Peter McMillan Salty

It was in 1987 that Teechers was first performed by the Hull Truck Theatre Company at the Edinburgh Festival. 23 years later it has had a few lines tweaked here and there to keep it up to date with modern times but other than that the format has remained the same with 3 actors playing the roles of around 20 characters.

Godber has said that it could also be played by 20 different actors. I'm not so sure, I think the multiple , quirky role switching between just 3 cast members is the main reason this play works. I just can't see this comedy having the same impact with a cast of 20.

It doesn't take a genius to guess that Teechers is based on school life. The relationships between pupils, between pupils and teachers and even how teachers get along with each other. All these things are explored in 90 minutes together with views of pupils and teachers on public and private education.

Whitewall School is the setting and Mr Nixon is the drama teacher around whom the story revolves. Will he stick with the challenge of getting these inattentive , disruptive, public school pupils interested in his passion for drama or is the 'posher' St George's School the place for him?

The story is apparently actually based around true events with names and places being changed. It is said at the outset though that Mr Nixon is actually based on a teacher called Mr Harrison.

I've got to start out by saying that the first night audience for this was unjustifiably pathetically small at less than 100.
Fortunately, I understand further performances in the week are better booked.

The set is basic - a few desks and chairs - that's it! But it needs no more.

I will say that I don't think this is the most rip-roaringly funny comedy I have ever seen. But it redeems itself by having three superbly talented cast members who deliver such a great acting performance, switching from character to character in an instant.

If you approach this as a comedy-drama then you might just enjoy it a bit more. After all true stories are often a mixture of comedy and drama and I think this play fits better into that category.

Caire Eden, Peter McMillan, Zoe Lister, stars of Teechers
I found it more of a chuckle along comedy and whilst I am not going to spoil the performance for those who haven't seen it I must say I love the emergency Ninja idea and the tennis sequence was brilliant. Although how Mr McMillan hasn't decapitated any audience member yet by letting go of that tennis racquet I'm none too sure. Keep your grip Peter!

As regards to the age group this will appeal to I think it's similar to the recent Up n Under. A school based play would logically be appreciated more by a younger audience. I think that was demonstrated even on this first night. Despite the small audience a few teens were in the front row and they loved it.

Students may wish to note that the £6 tickets available to you represent a £10 saving on normal price tickets. That is a bargain for some extremely fine acting.

There is no best performer in this - it's just an all round great performance of a monstrous script.

But it wouldn't be fair not to mention that the headline artist is the lovely Hollyoaks actress, Zoe Lister. Zoe has, of course, recently been treading the red carpet at the British Soap Awards at which she bagged the Spectacular Scene award for the tragic parachute jump.

Come on Hollyoaks and Zoe Lister fans where were you on this opening night? Zoe is an excellent character actress. Why not spend a few pounds and appreciate your favourite artist on stage rather than the screen. 4000+ followers on Twitter but none in Eastbourne?

This is bound not to be everybodys' cup of tea given the age range the Devonshire Park theatre normally attracts. But I hope that many, like me, can appreciate this for being a terrific performance from 3 great actors? I have so much admiration for what must be a really difficult script to memorise and at the same time need to switch from one character to another with the accent change being perfect.

I still hope those Zoe Lister and Hollyoaks fans start filling those empty seats this week!

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