Theatre in Wales

Theatre, dance and performance reviews

Mick, a very fine teacher, a very fine man


Pontardawe Arts Centre , Ffwrnes Llanelli , February-06-19
Cracked by Pontardawe Arts Centre The clarity of Emily Hinshelwood’s writing may come from the fact that she is best known as a poet. Along with her director and dramaturge playwright Louise Osborn she has brought us a taut compelling account of life in a nearby secondary school.

We meet Mick, a teacher, very good and dedicated teacher. Mick is played by Tom Mumford. I say played but Mumford is so real that it feels as if we have walked into his classroom in the middle of a lesson. This magnificent sense of realism has been picked up by all the other members of the cast who also give extraordinary believable performances.

We all know teachers like Dick Bradnum’s Mr Jackson: insensitive, no nonsense or you’re out. Again his bad temper gets right under our skin. Mick thinks he has gone too far this time as Jackson is insisting on exclusion for Stewart who he insists is missing lessons and not towing the line.

After a brief argument Mick persuades Jackson to let him teach Stewart himself. Joe Wiltshire Smith again perfectly captures the mood of this sullen, disillusioned schoolboy.

Mick is a keen geologist; he gets Stewart interested in some of the fossils to be found on Southerndown, a nearby beach, with a rock wall where specimens dating back to the Troassic era can be seen. Some of this engages Stewart’s imagination but he is still reluctant to settle to proper work. This does improve and soon he is chucking reluctant homework papers at Mick.

But there’s something disturbing going on inside Mick, maybe something from his past. It haunts and taunts him in the form of Cavelle, a sinister black clad crow like figure played by the acrobatic and sinister Catriona James. She is at her worst with Young Mick, a coup de theatre, an almost life sized puppet of Mick at around10 years old. These sequences are very moving.

Whilst Mick is continuing his battle with Stewart, Shelby, this time with an engaging, quiet realism from Frances Keyton, joins the school as a teacher’s assistant. She is also interested in geology; she and Mick get on well. Things begin to sparkle but whatever is inside Mick weakens his reserve and matters fail to progress.

Things go well with Mick and Stewart. Mick discovers Stewart’s deep-seated angst and tries to help him.

The play’s sense of realism and its understanding of human weakness emerge again. Jackson decides, quite mistakenly, that there’s something not right in the relationship between Mick and Stewart and starts to stir things. He hasn’t reckoned on Mick having succeeded in ridding himself of his demons!

The full house in Stiwdio Stepney remains totally captivated by this superbly performed drama. You will be too.

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Reviewed by: Michael Kelligan

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