I caught the last performance of John Godber’s fabulous romp, Teechers at Hampton Hill Theatre. The raised-platform stage at Hampton Hill Theatre was fun and dynamic – Godber’s 1980s play-within-a-play is not just a physical and verbal workout for the actors. It had me on the edge of my seat!
Directed by Asha Gill, and produced by the Teddington Theatre Club the show is billed as an amateur production – presented by arrangement with Concord Theatricals Ltd. The actors – leaping, running, moving around the simple wooden platform, were fluid and exuberant. There were skilful performances from each of the three energetic young players, as they raced about switching characters at breakneck speed.
All of these characters were a treat, I especially enjoyed Ms Whitham the fussy old English teacher, dying to get out of the rat race.
Aside from one or two hiccups the performance was smooth and well acted. The players switched roles adroitly, while maintaining their ‘permanent’ characters well. The schoolkids depicted by Josh Clarke, Joanna Taylor, and Caroline Gudge, going about in a fug of déjà vu, relieved only by their exquisite sense of mischief, were spellbinding, as was the cleverly managed dialogue
Their counterparts were the naïve new drama teacher, Mr Nixon, and the rest of the staff at Whitewall Comprehensive, some more seasoned than others. Along the alleyways of adolescence, the whip smart kids smoke their way through life, while casting a cynical eye on their betters.
Godber’s outstanding achievement is to convey, with minimalist devices, the touching vulnerability of these feisty working-class kids. Impossible not to feel empathy toward their posturing and bravado. When Gail speaks of snogging Mr Nixon at the school dance – she plans to eat loads of spring onions to hide the smell of alcohol on her breath – it pricks our reminiscence. Oh, the tender follies of youth – surely these belong to us all.
Outside the confines of school and boring lessons, these kids may not even have much to enjoy in Thatcher’s class-bashing Britain. They may never achieve the same level of life satisfaction – or income – that the kids up the hill will attain. They look askance at St George’s – the posher school, to which Mr Nixon absconds. They feel trapped in the system.
Drama teacher, Mr Nixon, fleeing the fascism of Mr Basford, (the dictatorial math teacher at Whitewall Comprehensive), struggles with his conscience as he abandons his fledglings, but not for long. The sheer bliss of teaching in a school that has a proper drama centre and equipment is too much of a lure.
Yet these kids have talent, verve, and capability. Here they are performing a play about their drama teacher Nixon; Godber’s intent is to show them as intelligent, and articulate; part of a school-system that classifies and confines. The all-pervading ‘system’ lowers expectations and tosses kids like these straight into the low-waged job market. Caged birds, and they know it.
The simplicity of the setting, Colin Swinton’s well-placed lighting, and sparse costuming, lend weight to the dialogue. Not a dull moment. Salty’s final lament about uncaring politicians is a moving piece of theatre. Knowing he is about to join the ranks of the disaffected on the outside, Salty pours out his heart to a bemused Mrs Parry.
Who doesn’t remember that odd sensation of emptiness, on leaving schooldays behind? Youth is forged in the cameo of the classroom. Teechers is a treasure for theatre goers and social-historians alike. Well done Hampton Hill Theatre, and TTC – more good theatre to our doorsteps.
Images by Jojo Leppink, Handwritten Photography
A recent trip to see LOOT was a rare treat. Our local playhouse staged Joe Orton’s brilliant absurdity as their ‘alternative Christmas show’ describing it as ‘wielding a satirical sledgehammer to conventional English morality.’
The fabulous Teddington Theatre Club players, directed by Nigel Cole put together a grand performance. The beauty of front row seats, at a fraction of the cost of the West End, meant being up close and personal with the actors on stage, seeing the magical interplay of Orton’s characters.
On curtain opening, we found a stage cluttered with kitsch – religious iconography, such as images of the Blessed Mother and the Sacred Heart. The holy water container, and the ubiquitous plastic Madonna were present, of course. Next to these, the curtained-off bed, the suspicious-looking closet and a huge coffin that dominates the stage. The voice of Fay McMahon, the nurse, in farcical accent chimes well with the OTT stage setting. The cringing McLeavy – in a stagier brogue – sets off an infectious atmosphere of fun and mischief.
LOOT is no mere pastiche. This savage comedy is a clever and satisfying dismembering of religious and institutional hypocrisy. The play was first performed during the period when homosexuality was illegal in Britain, as well as a being an egregious sin. Orton eviscerates the pompous and the puritanical. He examines the social-cultural morals of the era and finds them wanting.
I sensed Orton’s affection for his motley crew. Inspector Truscott, is an inverted Sherlock Holmes. Silly officer Meadows, is a betrayal of the ever-stoic ‘Dixon of Dock Green’. The two would-be bank robbers are no exemplars of the Kray twins. They have a problem living up to their ‘wide-boy’ image – one of them can’t even lie! Nurse McMahon is a serial killer. The holier-than-thou McLeavey is drowning in iniquity. These are all wonderfully subversive 1960s stereotypes.
Familiar tropes, but highlighting the absurdity of narrow-minded conventions, celebrating the quirky and the absurd. The ever-present coffin and the corpse of McLeavys late wife – trussed up and manhandled like a sack of potatoes – lent a delicious sense of sacrilege to the proceedings on stage.
Orton was a master satirist in the tradition of Oscar Wilde, if on the opposite end of the class spectrum. The London Observer once referred to him, as “The Oscar Wilde of the welfare state gentility.”
For more crackpot fun, tune in to Lizzie Snoopes
Unfortunately, Orton was the victim of a murder-suicide at age 34. He died in his flat in 1967, a scene he might well have written into one of his dark satires.
Luckily, theatre-goers can still see and appreciate his superb plays, but there might have been more to enjoy if his life wasn’t ended so brutally.
Well done, TCC and Hampton Hill Playhouse for bringing Joe Orton’s work back to life, so vividly.
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What turns a comedy into a classic? For starter, its humor needs to be timeless – making the film remain relevant for years to come. These are the kind of films that almost everyone talks about; you’ll be left with a massive case of FOMO if you haven’t watched them yet. Lucky for you, we have compiled a list of breathtakingly hilarious films that will have you laughing long after watching them.
Here are five of the best films in the last century:
1. The Hangover (2009)
What would you do if you were celebrating your friend’s bachelor party and ended up losing the groom? The Hangover answers just that through its clever script. Just two days before his wedding, Doug and three of his friends drive to Las Vegas for the bachelor party. After a long night of partying, the three groomsmen wake up the next morning with no recollection of anything that happened.
Even worse, they have lost the groom, Doug. With almost no time to spare, the three are left with no choice but to retrace their steps. Watch as they beat obstacle after obstacle to save their friend’s wedding. The film is an artistic representation of the saying “what happens in Vegas stays in Vegas.”
2. Four Weddings and a Funeral (1994)
A loveable Englishman and his friends seem to have some tough luck when it comes to love. Charles, however, seems to gain some luck when he crosses paths with Carrie, an American at a wedding. They have a strong bond and chemistry, but the timing never seems to be right. She goes back to the states leaving Tom worried that his luck might not have changed.
The movie takes its audience through the two crossing paths accidentally some more times – at a handful of nuptials, a single funeral. This premise makes it a definite classic for rom-com lovers.
3. Shaolin Soccer (2001)
Shaolin soccer is what happens when you mix comedy, action, and Kung Fu. The movie follows a young man who never seems to find a place where he belongs. He believes that all the world’s problems could be solved through Kung Fu.
Upon learning of a soccer match with $1 million as the grand prize, he teams up with a band of misfits – six of his friends who had been Kung Fu masters in their early ages. The hilarious film widens its audience’s imagination of what could happen on a soccer pitch, from clothes being blown away to balls being kicked at 100 miles per hour.
4. Safety Last (1923)
The story follows a young man who moves to New York with hopes of realizing the American dream while supporting his girlfriend. He soon discovers the sad truth that making it in the city that never sleeps could be harder than he first thought. To his luck, he learns of a store manager that’s willing to pay $1,000 to anyone who can draw customers to his store.
Attracted by the offer, he convinces his friend to do a building-climbing stunt, after which they could split the profits if they can draw customers to the shop. To his dismay, his friend gets in trouble, and he has to proceed with the stunt himself, despite having little to no knowledge about climbing buildings. Each antic from the main character will have you laughing and letting go of any acrophobia you have.
5. Mrs. Doubtfire (1993)
A father, Daniel Hilliard, loses custody of his children, which he is unwilling to accept. He hatches a plan with his brother help to stay close to his kids. The plan involves him dressing as an older British woman and getting hired by his ex-wife as the kids’ nanny.
The plot eventually works out. He ends up bonding with his kids and learning how to be a better parent. Eventually, living a double life gets him in trouble when he has to be in two places at once.
Engaging, hilarious, and thought-provoking, each of these films will chase away any stress you are going through. Their unique storylines and clever plots place them in the “Mt. Rushmore” of comedies.