‘Teechers’ has now become something of a period piece: I rather suspect the actors I saw in Cranleigh’s last house production of Godber’s play are now in their forties. But schools do not change that much and Harry Jervis, Millie McKee and Georgie Heinrich relished their impersonation of the central lippy, chavvy trio. As Salty, Harry Jervis was a towering central pole of the production and was even more hilarious in a ludicrous wig as Peter Saxon, a village idiot figure with his anecdote about ‘Gibbon-head’ (even teachers can laugh at these caricatured teechers).
Highlights of this fast moving production included the central trio supposedly acting an extract from ‘Marat/Sade’; Doug the caretaker (George Berry) dancing with his broom and telling us that someone “has gone crackers in the Sixth Form toilets”; the corporal punishment Ninjas; Jamie Reed as a DJ (a mix of Wacko Jacko and Sicko Saville); and the hilarious Miss Whitham (Issie Rennocks) as the oldest twerker in town.
The costume department were right on the comedic target for Issi’s costume and that of Mrs Parry, superbly played by Erin McCombe, the G & S (and also, possibly G & T) fanatic: “it’s my fifth Mikado”. All the actors made telling contributions to the fun (Tess, Heli, Charlie, Annie and Alex) but central to the drama was the contrast (ending in a comedy mimed tennis match) between Milo Maxton as the martinet Mr Basford and the loveable Orlando Tayor as everyone’s favourite drama teacher, Mr Nixon. One might expect a playwright to make a drama teacher the hero but it is a convenient way to illustrate how some teachers liberate the creativity of pupils, rather than using educational straitjackets. There is a certain irony, of course, in a school like Cranleigh putting on a play, the downbeat ending of which laments Mr Nixon leaving the sink school for the posh school. But Orlando did well to balance his human sympathy for his thespian trio with his relief at getting a job in a less chaotic, less maze-like environment.
The well-organised curtain-call on the first night was symbolic testimony to the hard work of Tilda Martin (who will, I am sure, want me to acknowledge the wise advice of IMA as well as that of Georgie Beamish and Housemistress, APS); her direction had many authentically theatrical ideas. We are lucky this year to have not only the professional technical expertise of Mark Jenkins but also the sorceror’s apprentice Robbie Matthews whose work is already, one might say, semi-professional.
For those of us lucky to see two house school plays (sic) on one night, this was a memorable evening.