Edinburgh Fringe: Teach by Matthew Roberts

Written & Performed by Matthew Roberts
Directed by Helen Tennison
The Space @ Surgeons’ Hall
Aug 8-10, 12-24
16:05 (50 mins)

by Bernie C Byrnes

Teacher Matthew Roberts mixes autobiography and statistics to create a powerful one-man show that has any teachers in the audience bawling their eyes out – including me.

Teach is not a depressing piece but it does depict a depressing situation. Teachers are under-funded, under fire and on the point of collapse. Roberts tells us he’s dreamt of being a teacher since he was 3 years old but now he needs advice about whether he should leave or stay. He asks the audience to vote on it three times. Of course he should stay – the man is clearly an amazing teacher – but as someone openly gay, one can only imagine how much harder it must be for him at the chalk face.

Pupils being stabbed, parents being obstructive, colleagues falling apart – it’s all there, beautifully performed through lyrical poetry, physical theatre, personal anecdotes and verbatim quotes. Dr Emma Kell’s book ‘How to Survive Teaching: Without Imploding, Exploding or Walking Away’ is liberally quoted and it makes for a disturbing read. Recent statistics show that not enough teachers are entering the profession and that too many are leaving. Teaching is facing a genuine crisis.

Roberts skilfully tackles workplace stress and anxiety, conflict and ‘toxic politics’, and the factors that lead teachers to ultimately decide to walk away, not least the toll on any personal relationships trampled under foot by the demands of this vocation. If it sounds heavy I’m miss-selling it. It’s a charming piece of storytelling and Roberts is so damn likeable it’s hard not to reach out and hug him.

Teach lovingly demonstrates that there are ways to survive the increasing pressure teachers are under and offers a realistic, unflinching and positive perspective on the challenges and rewards of teaching.

Teach will leave you with a lasting sense of being valued. What a beautiful, tender piece it is.


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