Michael Ayiotis as Salty, Terenia Barlow as Hobby and Ciara Morris as Gail. Pictures: Alex Harvey-Brown
Teechers Leavers '22
Lichfield Garrick


In 1987 when The Hull Truck Theatre Company took John Godber’s Teechers to the Edinburgh festival on a very tight budget it sold out and proved that a swipe at the educational system through great story telling and great characters was a recipe for success.

Godber takes his own experience as a teacher and gives the audience something we can all relate to, even more so for those of us who have ever been on stage or sat in an auditorium because at its core Teechers is a fight for the arts and its place in the school system.

Over the years Teechers has become a perfect option for school productions and amateur companies to showcase talented actors with a hard-hitting message that any performer would want to deliver.

So why the revamp? Surely, we are living in a world where drama, music and art are all readily available as core subjects for any pupil with a passion for them? Well, apparently not. I saw the production with my teacher friend who told me that at his school some of the top tier pupils would find it difficult to pick drama as an option at the end of year 8 due to the way system works. Disappointing to hear but enter Teechers leavers ‘22 with another gut punch to the powers that be that’s as heartfelt and shocking as it was back in the 80s.  

trio mid

Hobby, Gail and Salty

So here we are, the Lichfield Garrick has been transformed into the school hall of Whitewall comprehensive. Just three school desks and three chairs sit alone at the centre of the vast stage , a small box marked props and a hand held smoke machine near the back immediately gives the audience a sense of nervousness, and so five mins before curtain up our cast of three burst in through the auditorium doors to chat with their audience and try to pick out and potentially embarrass any real life teachers who might be willing to confess to their career choice.

It is the end of the summer term 2022 and Salty, Hobby and Gail our what would have been fifth formers back in the 80s are now year 11 leavers and they start their performance with a full throttle dance performance to an upbeat modern track leaving most of the audience breathless.

We then get an explanation that they will be showing us a play where our imagination is essential as they will be playing numerous characters and narrating the story along the way.

Godber writes characters who are real, real people in real situations, people who we all know or a least have encountered and here’s where he challenges his cast; not only do they need to make each character believable they need to do it at a breakneck pace swapping from one to another in a split second with no help from a costume change or makeup.

Three green blazers and three school ties are as far as the costume department have to go, everything else is down to the performance, through body language, accents, and sheer hard work we meet an array of wonderful and chaotic characters who would be found walking the halls of Whitewall.  

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Gail. Salty and Hobby

Michael Ayiotis, Terenia Barlow and Ciara Morris have the energy, passion and enthusiasm to knock the socks off anyone wanting to be entertained, it’s a phenomenal performance from all three; there is nothing they can’t do in fact if they had suddenly started figure skating around the stage I would not of been surprised.

Individually they are brilliant and as a team they are a well-oiled machine. It’s so heart-warming to see young performers deliver such quality performances, this is the heart and soul of this play and why it works so well.

The story may seem like a simple one but it delivers, Miss Nixon played by Hobby (Barlow) in the play within a play is the new Drama teacher at school and she’s got a subtle passion to push things forward, particularly in the arts.

 She wants to be an inspiration and she wants the pupils to be able to achieve their dreams. However, our students have seen and heard it all before and even Miss Nixon’s attempt to incorporate Tik Toks into her lessons seem like she is flogging a dead horse.

Whitewall is an underprivileged school, and the resources are nothing in comparison to St George’s which is not too far away but in a different catchment area, therefore Miss Nixon’s job seems even more impossible.

We are taken through the ups and downs of Miss Nixon’s first year, quarrels with janitors, highly amusing encounters with the other teachers and of course the post Covid scenarios that have never really gone away.

But let’s not forget we are watching a play devised by our students and some of the scenes along the way are created from their imagination so when Miss Nixon has the last dance at the Christmas party with Salty, we can only guess that was his idea, along with the wonderful Ninja assassin’s scene. At the end of act one my friend turned to me and said that is exactly what my life is like every day, which is testament to the direction, performance and general ambience of the piece.

Act 2 takes us on a rollercoaster of emotions, we have the same upbeat tempo as in the first half but also see the more poignant parts of school life and particularly Miss Nixon’s struggle with poor facilities and constant battles with those above her.

However, she has secured the confidence of our three heroes. They believe in her and she believes in them and at the end of the play we discover that it is actually a sort of love letter to their real Drama teacher Miss Harris who has, in their eyes, selfishly taken a new job at St George’s. They say you never forget a good teacher and Salty, Gail and Hobbs will certainly never forget. It may be too late to convince her to stay and inspire future generations but from everything she has taught them it was certainly worth a try.

There may be some elements of the new script that seem a little dated, but overall Teechers leavers ‘22 sends a powerful message about the importance of the Arts which hits home today as much as it did back when the original landed.

Blackeyed Theatre’s production is touring the UK until the end of May, not only will it make you laugh a lot it will make you think a lot and it will certainly provide you with a “well sick” night at the theatre. 

Dexter Whitehead


Teechers Leavers '22 returns to the Midlands at The Old Rep in Birmingham (11-12 May), Theatres Severn, Shrewsbury (22-24 May) and The Albany Theatre, Coventry (25 May).

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