Review: Teechers, Gala Theatre, Durham, at York Theatre Royal Studio, until June 1. Box office: 01904 623568 or at

JOHN Godber’s 1984 play Teechers may be old enough now to work as a teacher at Whitewall high school, but that doesn’t mean the themes of disenfranchisement and dossing about within an inner city, “rough” school no longer ring true in 2019.

Durham Gala Theatre, in co-production with York Theatre Royal, breathe life into the classroom comedy with plenty of Northern charm and enthusiasm.

Former teacher Godber’s play within a play sees Salty (Louis Roberts), Gail (Sarah Boulter) and Hobby (Mahsa Hammat Bahary) staging an homage to their outgoing drama teacher.

From previously being regarded as lost causes, the ensemble cast creates a buzz of eagerness from the moment they enter the auditorium. Bahary’s cautious entrance flags that there’s still a tinge of uncertainty about the proceedings, which reveals itself over the course of the show.

These three have had to deal with unwanted advances, school bullies, and the overriding feeling that they won’t achieve much after their final week of school. You’d be nervous too, right?

There are a couple of curious instances in which the production has added some up-to-date references that deliver mixed results. While it’s fun to hear that the kids have staged their own version of Avengers: Age Of Ultron (as opposed to the far more bleak Infinity War?), the follow-up that Gail and Hobby are so keen on, E.T., feels out of place with 15 year olds in the present day, for whom the alien prosthetics probably look a bit naff. Likewise, the sexual discourse in the play flies in Gober’s 1980s but feels that it teeters on dangerous territory in 2019.

Tom Wright’s direction offers a wide range of physicality throughout the show. By showing the students in Jeff Nixon’s class go from slouching off the edge of the stage to nervously hovering around their teacher, Wright subtly shows the developing confidence in Nixon’s protagonist.

Wright’s own connection with the play shows – his mother was a drama teacher – and there’s a lot of heart that’s clearly gone into the production. Although it may take a while to warm to the cast playing a bunch of teens, the show confidently comes into its own in the second act.

Louise Jones