by John Godber
Directed by Marilyn Crowther
Burnley Garrick Theatre Group
John Godber’s Teechers is a play written in 1984 and follows the story of three students, Salty, Gail and Hobby recounting their time in the slightly rough-around-the-edges, Whitewall High School. The play centres on the story of their drama teacher, and the play’s protagonist, Mr Nixon, and their dawning realisation of the impact he has had on them before his departure.
The original presentation of Teechers was shut down the week of lockdown in March 2020, so it was a joy finally to watch the long-awaited premier of the Garrick’s 2021/2022 season, and also to experience the company in its new venue at Burnley Youth Theatre. The performance certainly did not disappoint the audience with its nostalgic music, language and relatable characters.
The production was totally stripped back to basics, with a simplistic set consisting of three flats representing the classroom, the yard, and the office. The cast of three talented actors, Gary Leonard, Rachel Bailey and Luke Crowther, played all twenty parts – aged from 16 to 60. It was clear from the offset that all three actors were extremely experienced and that they had rehearsed meticulously.
Although we were told to ‘use our imagination’, the cast made it very easy for us to follow their story as they transitioned from one distinctive character into another with absolute expertise. I really enjoyed the fact that the cast not only switched characters but also genders. For example, Oggy, represented by his red hat, was played by all the actors. This was executed with precision. The actors all held amazing focus, energy, and stamina throughout, remaining on stage almost all the way through. When not involved in a scene, they remained focused, in character and watching from the side-lines. The skill of the cast moved us from one scene effortlessly to the next with a conscientious attention to detail, and comic timing. The use of minimal props and costumes made the scene transitions, and character changes, slick and smooth. The cast’s enjoyment of the material was infectious.
The play was supported by a strong technical team. I also enjoyed the thoughtful and relevant music choices, such as Elton John, Queen, David Bowie and Janis Ian. The music gave the play a clear sense of time and place as well as a good helping of nostalgia for those who grew up in the 80s!
Well done to the imaginative direction of Marilyn Crowther for bringing this production to life. This was a really fun evening, with the audience carrying the energetic buzz with them out of the auditorium. What else can I say? I loved it. An absolute tonic!