Staffroom – LIVE!

Posted on July 17, 2012

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Staffroom is Time2Shine Production’s latest play and set in the Behaviour Support Unit of Parkview school where you can spend a year with the staff through the highs and lows of OFSTED inspections, romance and arson in this darkly comic play.

Set in the titular staff room, we get an insight into a teacher’s lot as unruly pupils run amok. Framing this is Sophie Cartman’s social worker Sarah who tries to hold the team together. Arguably, she does a much better job than Louise Morell’s multi-layered headteacher Diana whose priorities, as you might expect, are mixed.

There is criticism of the LEA (Local Education Authority) who send over 11 pupils and expect assessments done within 72 hours leading to much compliant from the teachers concerned. But the criticism, like much of the social comment in the play, feels stilted – there is not much in the way of constructive criticism, or satire of current educational practices – something which could have elevated Staffroom much higher.

The transitions between scenes, punctuated by the school bell break up the action, but could use some background hubbub of the children in the school to help reinforce the atmosphere of the school – or detract from the insistently ringing bell. Some of the scenes are perhaps too short – silent little scenes such as Louisa opening a letter, or Simon puffing up his hair are a little distracting. The structure of the play is also uncohesive – you get a window into these character’s lives – but it is only a small flavour. The episodic nature of these encounters means the whole is somewhat lacking.

Writer Rachel Creeger is obviously close to the source material having been a School-Home Liasion Officer and Child Protection Specialist and Drugs Worker – clearly she knows her stuff, but I’m not wholly convinced the maximum was wrung out of the source material. Staffroom‘s successes come when situations you can relate to more in your own working lives come up for discussion rather than education based ones.

Indeed, where Staffroom is more successful is when it deals with the personal relationships between the staff. Brede McDermott, who plays Ellen, in particular is good as she cracks under the pressure of making ends meet professionally and personally. Australian actor Matt Abercromby and Karly Friend who play Jamie and Louisa respectively also provide a interesting double act as a fumble at the Christmas party fails to turn into something more.

Ultimately, Staffroom was not a play I felt I could connect with. I left having felt I hadn’t particularly learnt much of the motivation of these people to teach and a bit disillusioned. The characters seemed to have lost their way in deciding why they do their job and the play offered up little incentive in understanding this disparate group of people. Not to give too much away, but one of the characters departs the troupe, yearning for mainstream teaching instead – if the characters are so disengaged with themselves, their jobs and in most cases each other – what hope for the audience?

The Fiction Stroker gives Staffroom two strokes out of five:

Staffroom runs until 17 July at The Kings Arms in Salford or as part of the Camden Fringe from 20-25 August. You can also find out more about Time2Shine Productions on their website.

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