My reaction to Nadine Sparks’ show Teacher was varied. The opening sequence reminded me so much of my own teaching experience, it was quite amusing. The audience enjoyed it, down to the late arrivals being scolded for their tardiness. Unfortunately, from there things went downhill a bit. The small audience was filled with members of the teaching profession. I assume, like me, they were looking forward to seeing someone find the humour in the difficult (and sometimes thankless) job we do. And there were aspects of that. A range of jokes that those in the profession could relate to. A few members of the audience laughed continuously, others rarely. For most, it was sporadic laughter, as certain jokes caught their fancy.
For my part, I was disappointed in how quickly the humour devolved into a style that encouraged stereotypes (or pure fiction) and highlighted teachers as unprofessional. Sparks ended her presentation by thanking all teachers present for their work, and the huge contribution they make to society, but after the style of humour used, it felt more like an apology (or a retraction) than genuine thanks.
I was also confused by Sparks’ choice to jump between the expected teaching theme, and jokes relating to sex and female bodily functions. So far this festival it seems it is not possible to see a female comedian without the obligatory period joke. I was also disconcerted to hear a comedian who had described her previous gig as part of a feminist comedy trio, using such self-deprecating, body shaming humour. Sparks even commented at one stage about what a bad feminist she is. I don’t think that is what the female audience members wants to hear in this day and age – I would like to think that by 2017 a female comedian can be successful without denigrating herself in that way.
Tasma Terrace was interesting as a venue. Its remoteness from the entertainment precinct made it possible to find street parking, which was a plus. And the historical architecture and display in the performance venue itself were interesting. It was such a tiny, intimate space, that it was like attending a performance in someone’s living room, which can create a very cosy atmosphere. Another plus was the very reasonably priced wine and snacks at the bar.
Overall, the show was mildly entertaining in parts, and frustrating in others. It is possible that Sparks’ material may have gone over more positively with a more confidant presentation. The nervous laughter at the end of every line, and the constant hair flicking was grating, and did not help build a rapport with the audience. I would love to see a more self-confidant Sparks mine her fifteen years of teaching for anecdotes she could adapt for comedic value, without resorting to de-valuing her own value and professionalism as a teacher.