Written and performed by Erin Holland, Bad Teacher is a quick-witted one-woman show about the trails and tribulations of a twenty-six-year-old teacher. Penned by and with teachers, this piece is in-your-face and unapologetic as it reflects some of the realities of the English education system.
Evie works at a Sixth Form College in London, and perhaps because she is not that much older seems to have a particular rapport with and understanding of her students. The play is very funny in parts, particularly when Evie’s personal and social life crash into her professional one. She is likeable and sympathetic, trying to steel herself for parents evening and to ask for a pay rise, while simultaneously trying to teach in a system that is creaking under the strain.
Mental ill health is a recurring theme, both for Evie and her students, and there are some touching interactions that highlight the pressure school staff are under to address and manage complex issues that are really beyond their expertise. Exemplified by Evie’s relationship with her troubled student, Joy, it is telling this play is set in 2019, prior to the post-covid mental health crisis that will now make these matters even more prevalent.
A lot of topics are packed into this 45-minute play, and that means that sometimes they cannot be fully addressed. Grace O’Keefe’s direction makes the most of the compact space, and the use of flip charts and voiceovers make the other characters feel very present, but at times the story feels a bit rushed and uneven.
Holland gives a sterling performance as Evie, immediately getting the audience on her side, and at one point on the stage. Voicing a number of other teachers and students, and utilising music, poetry and a barnstorming rap about Gavin Williamson to compliment the tale, this is an engaging, thought-proving dark comedy that certainly teaches the audience a few lessons.
By Deborah Klayman
Bad Teacher plays at Underbelly, Edinburgh until 29th August 2022.