With looming Ofsted inspections, struggling students, and the background of the government making steps to cut the arts, Evie is anything but a bad teacher. But the title ‘Great Teacher in a terrible system of Tory, patriarchal w***ers’ doesn’t have the same ring to it.
In this one woman production, written and performed by teacher Erin Holland, we meet the loveable character, Evie; a drama teacher coping with the difficulties occurring in a single day in her life, both superficial and critical. Just because this is set in a school, don’t be fooled. The foul-mouthed 26 year-old invites the audience in to the inner workings of her mind, as she discusses BPE (Big Pussy Energy), impressively endowed men, and accidentally sneaking the smallest amount of leftover weed into a lesson.
Whilst Bad Teacher ultimately portrays the reality of many hardships teachers face, such as the responsibility they place upon themselves to help the mental health of their students on the ever-growing waiting lists for counselling, the writing cleverly discusses the serious issues in a light-hearted manner without negating their importance. The constant humour through snarky comments to the audience, a brief genre change to a ‘The Godfather’ style meeting with the principal, and a rap interlude only create a contrast to the sobering moments of significance.
With a minimalist stage setting and only a few uses of props, Holland creatively builds the messy yet lively feel of a school by multi-roling the other eccentric characters she comes across, demonstrating an impressive range of accents. Similarly, director, sound and ‘basically everything else’ department, Grace O’Keefe uses snippets of recordings, with voices of other teachers and students alike, to create a multi-dimensional experience. It is thoroughly enjoyable and feels like being transported right back to school.
Holland’s exaggerated performances of Evie and her colleagues allow for a seamless transition into hilarious sequences, such as a dramatisation of parents’ evening set deep in the trenches. It is an excellent way to allow for variety within the one woman production, enabling the use of more physical theatre along with music and lighting.
At times the transitions between sections feels slightly disjointed, as though the play was briefly put on pause for only a quick reallocation of a chair, or to flip the next page in a flipchart. Although the gap created by the drop in lighting was filled with the song ‘Mama Said’ by the Shirelles (which was definitely a suitable and uplifting song) it felt unnecessary to halt the character and lighting; there may have been a way to include those within the performance, without bringing the audience ‘out’, and then back in again. We are guided through the show via the three items on Evie’s to-do list; the aforementioned BPE, Joy (a student she’s come to feel responsible for) and the instruction ‘Do Not Cry’. If the to-do list applied to the audience as well, I failed, as the heartbreakingly frustrating moments that make you feel simultaneously accountable and entirely helpless are illustrated so beautifully.
Written by: Erin Holland
Directed and Produced by: Grace O’Keefe for The Queen of Cups
Bad Teacher has completed its London previews. It now moves to Edinburgh where you can catch it at Underbelly Bristo during August. Further details can be found on the Queen of Cups website here.