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Teechers Leavers ’22 Review: A Hugely Enjoyable Performance with an Onerous Message

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Teechers Leavers ’22 (hereafter referred to as Teechers) received a rapturous reception from an appreciative audience last night at the inspiring Hull Truck Theatre, courtesy of a hugely enjoyable performance accompanied by an onerous message.

What is Teechers About?

A reimagination of the 1987 original, Teechers is essentially a rather damning socio-political take on the contemporary state school system picking up on the worrying issues of exam chaos, tech poverty, post-pandemic isolation, absenteeism, and lost school hours. Teechers follows the travails of Salty (Levi Payne), Gail (Purvi Parmar), Hobby (Martha Godber), and Miss Nixon (also Martha Godber) who are accompanied by transient supporting characters all of whom are, admirably, played interchangeably by the three hugely-talented cast members.

Expectations and Favourite Moments

Funnily enough, I was fortunate enough to have seen Teechers last Thursday, on its opening night, and testament to the quality of performance, I was delighted to have been asked to go again. Sitting pretty at the top of my ‘things to look forward to’ list was the mickey takes of teacher stereotypes and witty colloquialisms — more on these later. It seems this excitement was shared by my fellow audience members, many of whom exuded an eagerness that was palpable upon entry to Hull Truck Theatre. This suggests to me that Teechers has got plenty of people talking.

Teechers is chock-full of favourite moments, as they are, the most notable of which, in my opinion, are the recurring scenes with the comically named Mr. Basford, who equipped with a stern disposition rules his classroom with an iron fist and regularly locks horns with Miss Nixon. Being the personification of the strict teacher that everyone must have had the misfortune to encounter, he was jested mercilessly and proved to be the character that everyone loved to hate by the end of the performance.  Additionally, the Christmas disco dance scene was an outstanding piece of observational comedy and rightly had the audience in stitches. Here, the cast members spontaneously burst into a playful dance routine designed to mimic every teacher’s awful dancing — Martha Godber’s moonwalk was hysterical.

Star Turn Cast Members

All three of the cast members deserve mention as they were excellent, particularly because they took off each character interchangeably without the audience ever losing track of the story. To my mind, this must be incredibly difficult to execute.

Martha Godber carried the production well as Hobby and Miss Nixon; leading with a commanding presence, she looked every bit the leading lady. Interestingly, she is the daughter of John Godber, the author of Teechers, although, you would never have known because she handled any extra responsibility with dexterity. At this point, it seems apt to mention The Godber Theatre Foundation, ‘an initiative which supports students specifically from Hull and East Yorkshire alongside their degree-level training in theatre arts subjects offering them mentorship, industry seminars, professional experience and financial aid’ which alongside its admirability complements, nicely, the main messages delivered by Teechers.

Purvi Parmar delivered a delightfully funny performance, particularly as Miss Jackie Prime and Miss Whitham. Throughout, her comedic ability was obvious and she performed with, what seemed, a glowing smile. Additionally, she proved to be capable of adopting a Scouse cadence (with a remarkable Wirral twang) almost at whim, often being the bane of actors, which certified her ability as a remarkable performer.

Levi Payne emanated skill and although I am not a theatre critic, per se, I have no doubt that he is a rising star in the industry. Payne is superb as Mr. Basford, donning a hilarious fake nose and glasses accessory, he personifies everyone’s most hated teacher perfectly which took me back to Year 7 were a particularly nasty Physics teacher put the fear of God into me.  

Why Should You Attend a Performance of Teachers?

Anyone who was educated at a state school would relate to Teechers and it may even be a trip down memory lane. I, having left school seven years ago, was certainly reminded of the good, the bad, and the ugly of my school years. For all that, you may, simply, consider Teechers if you are in search of a good time as it is, above all else, a barrel of laughs. However, be warned! If you are a Conservative Member of Parliament or, worse, the Conservative Secretary of State for Education then watch at your peril as, to put it lightly, Teechers is somewhat critical of the Conservative Party.

Onerous Connotations

As I have mentioned, Teechers addresses the issues of exam chaos, tech poverty, post-pandemic isolation, absenteeism, and lost school hours. Consequently, I, having been touched by these, left Hull Truck Theatre with food for thought. The COVID-19 pandemic and subsequent, ongoing, recovery has highlighted some severe educational disparities in our United Kingdom. Many students, especially those from less fortunate backgrounds, have been denuded of aspiration and have likely lost faith in our institutions; namely, those charged with governance. Therefore, this begs the question, what hope have we for the future if those who are indeed the future have been treated so erroneously? Additionally, an overbearing focus on exam performance robs students of their ability to develop themselves as individuals which should arguably be the primary responsibility of our schools. Sadly, this is crippling the arts subjects in particular. Overall, I worry that the issues brought to bear by Teechers indicate that we are heading towards a receding society.

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