'Teechers', by John Godber; Blackeyed Theatre, 28/03/2018.

I went to see one of my favourite plays at the White Rock Theatre, Hastings, on Wednesday 28th of March, performed by Blackeyed Theatre

I studied 'Teechers' at GCSE, and some friends of mine performed it for their final practical exam, then I came across it again at A Level when we looked at texts by modern English dramatists - so it's safe to say I know this play pretty well. 

'Featuring breathtaking ensemble performances and a bang-up-to-date soundtrack, Teechers brings to life an array of terrifying teachers and hopeless pupils through the unique eyes of Salty, Gail and Hobby; three Year 11 students about to leave school for good.  Will Mr Nixon abandon his students for a green and pleasant Grammar school? Who puts the bounce in Miss Prime, the PE teacher? Will Mrs Parry ever find her Koko? And why does everyone smell of spring onions?'
(Source: whiterocktheatre.org.uk)

This play was just what I needed, in the middle of a fairly slow and restful week. It was an electric injection of hilarity! 

The three-person cast (Jake Addley as Salty, Nicole Black as Gail, Rosalind Seal as Hobby) were utterly amazing. Not just because their acting was superb in their main roles, but because over the course of the play (around 90 minutes) they must have played over 20 characters between them!? And every single character had their own voice, personality and physicality. There was the uptight, aggressive Deputy Head Mr Basford; the sexy temptress P.E. teacher Jackie Prime; the loud, theatrical Mrs Parry (who, several times during the performance, reminded me of my Drama teacher at school)...and many, many more. A personal favourite of mine was Bobby 'Oggy' Moxton, the school bully who terrorises both students and teachers, who in this production was brilliantly chavvy and hilarious, speaking in the most comical way but still, somehow, coming across as a bad ass bully!?

Anyway, as they played every character, swapping and changing seemingly effortlessly, the energy never slipped and the characterisation was wonderful. It was easy to distinguish who was who, and what their story and objectives were. 

The play was originally written (and therefore set) in the 1980s. As I recall, the original script contained a lot of topical references and pop culture, and was very of the time, so obviously the company had to bring it up to date in order to perform it in 2018. But they didn't just change the references in their lines (e.g. when Mr Dean 'Deanie' is DJ-ing the school disco and the kids said he was trying to be like Nick Grimshaw) they also worked in some quick blasts of current music between scenes. Not just when they had to move the set around, either (which they also did a lot while saying their lines; it was so slick!) but just for the hell of it, it seemed, or when the songs were relevant (e.g. 'What About Us?' by P!nk, the one Heart Sussex plays all day every day, was played during an emotional moment and Camila Cabello's 'Havana' played while the sexy P.E. teacher thrusted and squatted as Mr Nixon gawped). They even took time at the beginning of the performance to play 80s tunes, then 90s, then 00s, which I think very effectively signified the play being brought forward from its original time setting. 

Another lovely touch the company incorporated into the performance was their engagement with the audience; when Clare and I took our seats, it took us a second to realise that there were three school kids moving amongst the stalls, chatting with the punters. Soon enough, Salty approached us and asked how far we'd come to see the show. When we said 'We're just 10 minutes down the road!' He blinked a lot and replied 'corrr, I hope it's worth the journey!' - seeming genuinely worried for us. Then we had a nice talk with Gail, who wanted to know more about Hastings - and its 'Pier of the Year'. Later on during the performance, we were indicated when lines were uttered that related to us, and after the interval when they came into the audience again, Clare was invited up to dance with Salty! (I don't think they expected her to salsa so hard...)

Some of my favourite moments in this production included: the classroom ninja sword fight (their ties were swords?!), Oggy's rap (which, when we performed this play at school, was just a very aggressive, long speech. This was so much better!), and every scene set in the posh private school (soft lighting and fancy, fluttering school kids!). 

As I mentioned before, the set (designer: Victoria Spearing) was delightfully simple and very effectively moved around by the cast as the play progressed. The lighting was subtle but then used in big ways for the more dramatic moments (lighting: Charlotte McClelland). 

I wish this company the very best of luck in their final performance, in Bognor Regis. They'll kill it. 

Get more info on Blackeyed Theatre's production HERE!

Also, quick shout-out to the friendly, brilliantly helpful ladies working in the White Rock Box Office, and of course to the theatre's publicity guys for giving me the opportunity to review. I hope to return there soon! 


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