Secret Weapons

Dickson Telfer’s solo play, in which he also appears, charts the struggle of a teacher to impose control on a rogue class in so-called Higher Education. The 16 to 18 year-olds are there ‘because they can’t get a job, or won’t get a job’. They make life miserable for those who genuinely want to learn, mainly the mature students.

The classroom is a battleground where the teacher is losing the battle. The kids ignore him, deride him, surf on their iPhones, send texts, make calls – and do anything to humiliate him. Enter a senior teacher, Dr Ricketts, who gives him a few secret weapons to play with: psychological tricks, the sanction of expulsion, and more. At the end, having established control, the teacher has grown up himself and also grown in self-confidence.

I have no idea whether Telfer has been a teacher, but it all rings horribly true to my ears. The writing is full of school detail, and the ear for teenage argot spot-on. He also plays a gallery of the kids who are his tormentors with horrible conviction.

Clearly the many teachers in the audience were delighted with this depiction of themselves as saintly-intentioned ‘Improvers and Inspirers’. From my experience at both ends of the Assembly Hall, this is a very partial picture. In painting this purely in terms of a confrontation and power struggle, the author seems to end with the pessimistic solution of replacing one form of bullying with another – for ‘their own good’, of course. There’s no attempt to create any kind of depth in any of the pupils, and the result is very patronising.

On the technical side, the frequent light-changes are fussy and distracting, and the incidental music that underscores the action adds nothing, while drowning some of the actor’s speech. One nice touch that does ring true is the sheer physical toll that teaching takes.

Reviews by Peter Scott-Presland

Charing Cross Theatre

Jacques Brel is Alive and Living in Paris

★★★
Jermyn Street Theatre

Return of the Soldier

★★★
Southwark Playhouse

Eye of a Needle

★★★★
Rosemary Branch Theatre

The Trial of the Jew Shylock

★★★
Southwark Playhouse

In The Heights

★★★★

Since you’re here…

… we have a small favour to ask. We don't want your money to support a hack's bar bill at Abattoir, but if you have a pound or two spare, we really encourage you to support a good cause. If this review has either helped you discover a gem or avoid a turkey, consider doing some good that will really make a difference.

You can donate to the charity of your choice, but if you're looking for inspiration, there are three charities we really like.

Mama Biashara
Kate Copstick’s charity, Mama Biashara, works with the poorest and most marginalised people in Kenya. They give grants to set up small, sustainable businesses that bring financial independence and security. That five quid you spend on a large glass of House White? They can save someone’s life with that. And the money for a pair of Air Jordans? Will take four women and their fifteen children away from a man who is raping them and into a new life with a moneymaking business for Mum and happiness for the kids.
Donate to Mama Biashara now

Theatre MAD
The Make A Difference Trust fights HIV & AIDS one stage at a time. Their UK and International grant-making strategy is based on five criteria that raise awareness, educate, and provide care and support for the most vulnerable in society. A host of fundraising events, including Bucket Collections, Late Night Cabarets, West End Eurovision, West End Bares and A West End Christmas continue to raise funds for projects both in the UK and Sub-Saharan Africa.
Donate to Theatre MAD now

Acting For Others
Acting for Others provides financial and emotional support to all theatre workers in times of need through the 14 member charities. During the COVID-19 crisis Acting for Others have raised over £1.7m to support theatre workers affected by the pandemic.
Donate to Acting For Others now

The Blurb

All teachers have that nightmare class. Enter the mysterious Alex Ricketts to equip you with some psychological tricks. Dickson Telfer, ‘an outstanding new writer-performer’ (Alan Bissett), exposes the trials of the graduate teacher in this hilarious one-man show.

Most Popular See More

The Lion King

From £25.00

More Info

Find Tickets

Mary Poppins

From £24.00

More Info

Find Tickets

Moulin Rouge! The Musical

From £30.00

More Info

Find Tickets

SIX

From £21.00

More Info

Find Tickets

Dear Evan Hansen

From £30.00

More Info

Find Tickets

Matilda the Musical

From £24.00

More Info

Find Tickets