Far from farcical!
In the projected society by this theatrical production, a bungling malcontent who is a failed attempt at education could become a teacher, the focus of concern of variously disaffected colleagues, and eventually their boss.
That can be a fair interpretation taken away by any viewer of the Tony Thompson-directed play School’s Out, put on by the Central Bank Sports Club and acted out over the long weekend at Frank Collymore Hall.
The plot is set in the teacher’s lounge of a secondary school where almost every allegation of school malfunction in today’s society is played out in laugh-a-minute performances by Barbados’ seasoned and up-and-coming actors.
It was billed as a farcical play set in a church school, but beneath the laughter the play touched on many areas of society’s concerns –– real or imagined –– and about happenings in our educational infrastructure.
With a pastor/teacher incongruously seeking to force himself on the body of a presumed dead female colleague, mumblings about taking politics out of education, granting academic marks to students based on anything but their knowledge, a dialogue on religion, and the morality of abortion, the two-hour performance School’s Out, in two acts, is funny, but far from farcical.
Untidiness characterizes the scenes in the teacher’s lounge, dominated by the pervasive odour of an unkempt toilet.
The dirtiness naturally breeds vermin such as the rat that a male teacher uses to scare the emotionally gullible colleague Michelle McClean into fainting.
The largely ignorant teachers gather around the prostrate McClean puzzling on whether she has passed away, and the pastor/teacher loses control of himself as he unbuttons her blouse in a purported attempt to revive her.
“Let me check her pulse.”
For her sake, the lady recovers in time to scare off the potential violator and the dumb group of onlookers.
The predatory pastor, unable to keep his hands off Miss McClean, is a subplot in a story of bickering underperforming teachers, with an absent headmaster, resolving to devious deeds to oust a newcomer who seeks to change the status quo.
They move from a number of connived scandals set upon the new teacher and settled on the imagined plight of poor young Horace Henry, who is more of a primary school dropout that a secondary school teacher.
Henry is made to believe that the efficient new teacher is out to get him, and the others rally around the misfit in a scheme to lodge complaint with the headmaster, but the newcomer teacher suddenly resigns.
All is well again as they return to their comfort zone of miserable existence, until a new headmaster is named in a turn of events that proves to be the worst nightmare of the church school as political patronage places the least educated of the lot to the top post.
The play is studded with hilarious one-liners.
“She look like an adjectival clause; she does behave like a past participle; she rate as a common noun” is the way a teacher describes a colleague.
Demonstrating the merit system for marking test papers, one teacher passes the class register to another and says: “Call out them numbers for me let me work out a mark.”
When the name of a class bully is called, that teacher declares: “I got to give he 50, yeah”, and proceeds to tell of an encounter with the student, known for slashing tyres of teachers’ cars.
“He take out a rachet knife and start cleaning his fingernails!”
Accused of peddling rumours, Hopeless Horace Henry, retorts: “I only hear what I repeat.”
While the actors smoothly executed their roles, Ross Simmons became one with his character, the nauseating under-educated Horace Henry.
Elson Gaskin adapted the 40-year-old work of acclaimed playwright Trevor Rhone, and re-produced it for a Barbadian stage with a bit of something almost everyone on this island could associate with.