Tuesday, 26 March 2013

Teechers - The Show

I promised I would devote a blog post to Teechers.  I have covered get-in, rehearsals and charity activities but not the play itself bar a paragraph in a previous post.  I wish I could say I was just waiting for the photo's from the photographer, but that is not strictly speaking true.
We had the end of show 'party' last Sunday and the blues have finally left me.  I'm ready to talk.

For the final time.
According to the blurb I sent out to help market the play, Teechers, by John Godber, is a light-hearted fast paced comedy play within a play. Three school leavers, Salty, Hobby and Gail perform to the audience an account of their time in school, specifically their time with Mr.Jeff Nixon, the new drama teacher who ignites their passion for the stage with his idealism and belief that all children should be treated equally, all with the underlying message that once talent has been tapped within a school, even in the most unlikely of places, the results are often staggering.
Performed by the Canterbury Players with a cast of just 6 playing 20 different roles and jumping between characters on stage this play is slick, satirical, funny, moving and highly energetic.
Now that is a lot to live up to for any production.  A single costume piece, a scarf or a baseball hat or taking off a jumper was all each actor could do to convey a completely different character.  They had 6 chairs and a table to create a classroom, a staff room, tennis courts, a bedsit, an office, a car, a disco and more. 
I'll be honest - this play terrified me.  I didn't know it, I had never directed before and I didn't have the first blue clue how to run an audition let alone rehearsals! 
I did know what I wanted though.
I wanted a cast I could trust.  Who would work together and improvise and come up with ideas without always waiting for me to prompt them.  Who would get creative and silly and not be afraid to make fools out of themselves.  Yes, this resulted in frequent break downs in rehearsals as the giggles took hold, but it also resulted in a lot of fantastic movement, activity and character inter-play.
They had me in tears the last time I saw it.

As with any production, you develop close bonds with the people you see for 3 hours three times a week and the cast quickly grew to trust and rely on each other - especially important for those sticky situations on stage when your mind goes blank, you have no idea what your next line is and you are relying on someone to feed it to you!
Keeping in character at certain points can be hard.  'Corpsing' is when the giggles get the better of the actor who is desperately trying to keep a straight face.  There were a couple of moments (particularly in the disco) when I could see some of the actors speedily turning away from something that was about to trigger them into corpsing.  I take this as a good thing.  If something is still making an actor laugh the 10th time they have seen it, it will have the audience in hysterics.  
This play was still making me laugh the last time I saw it.  

We broke the fourth wall by using the Teechers script as a prop, we pulled the play out of the play by putting one of the actors in the audience for the final scene, we incorporated Gangnam Style, Twilight and the Hunger Games next to Waiting for Godot and Hamlet.  

We showed how no child is a lost case.  

I was privileged to work with such a talented bunch of people who developed full blown characters out of a single reference and no lines, who created back stories and motivations for troubled teens, who found idealism and realism in the same sentence, who made a story 20 years old sound like it was written yesterday and who if I am honest made my job seem pretty irrelevant.  Working with three drama teachers has that benefit. 
As an introduction to directing, this was possibly the easiest it could have been.
We had 5 schools and numerous teachers come and see the production.  All left saying how similar it was to their own experiences.  In the bar in the interval each night I heard kids comparing the teacher characters they saw onstage to their own teachers in their schools.  
I had an 18 year old saying that he now understood how powerful and fun theatre can be.
You can't ask for a better review than that.

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