Camden Fringe 2012
Teechers is classic many characters few actors type comedy and though the subject matter is a little old hat and the set and costume design are basic despite a few fluffed lines this troupe of performers from Upstaged Theatre Company manage to pull off John Godber’s Teechers successfully. Upstaged is a company committed to offering an alternative to the normal actor training method, so in effect participants in the programme will learn by ‘doing’ with rehearsal experience, production weeks and many performance opportunities. They believe this to be ideal for those wishing to further their training or prepare generally for the industry.
The set is basic but effective with red backed plastic chairs with metal legs used to represent just about everything from to the staff room, to the auditorium to desks and even timetables. Sometimes innovative sometimes a bit too much overall they were used well. With companies out there like Stopped Clock using simple sets very cleverly this lacked a little fineness.
Stand out performances came from Mikesh Bassi playing Mr Nixon, the new Drama teacher with just the right measure of geeky seriousness. Laura Turnbull played a cocophany of challenging characters including Oggie the school bully and the perky P.E teacher Miss Prime with great strength and a true chameleon like ability. Her accents were all strong and varied with each character. Arianne Brooks playing Lillian, better known as Hobby was impressive and was the most expressive of the bunch. All the performers had a number of key well expressed comedy moments and there were certainly no dud performances.
Short (an hour long) and sweet this teacher/student play within a play was fun to watch but it would have been fantastic to see more made of the 80’s moments and at times it felt more like Waterloo Road without the heady drama than a play set in the 80’s. The accompanying 80’s music backing track is amusing but could have been incorporated more into the story rather than just existing as a way to move furniture about between scenes.
Teechers lacked the smooth scene changes and the layering required to make it exceptional. The characters are well defined by the troupe of enthusiastic performers but the piece all runs on one level. Even in comedy it is important to have a climactic moment and though they exist in the writing this is more a bunch of scenes strung together rather than a well rounded play which means the audience don’t perhaps feel as connected to the characters as they should. For a show touted as being physical theatre this was an area slightly lacking.
There are some excellent one liners and certainly there wasn’t really a dull moment, however there was no real climax so though it was an enjoyable evening I left wanting a little bit more. However keep an eye on Upstaged for their next production as this was well cast and it will be interesting to see what this company does next!