Edinburgh Fringe Festival Review: TEACH

IN BRIEF Passion plus experience equals a lesson to remember.

A burly, smiling man welcomes you into the auditorium. This warm and engaging host is Matthew Roberts, the writer and performer of TEACH, a 50-minute reality check of the embattled world of UK education, infused with research, poetry and inspiration. Matthew takes us on a passionate and deeply personal journey through the highs and lows of his 16 years of teaching experience, at times starkly illustrating the price he has paid for doing a job he loves.

He wisely structures the show into chapters, using as chapter opening points statistical quotes from a research book entitled “How To Survive In Teaching”, the pointed title of which underlines the stress and pressure teachers have to find a way to endure each day, as well as supporting his own experience sounding more widely representative. Under threat from all sides, colleagues, the system, pupils, it’s a wonder anyone actually teaches in the UK. But Roberts highlights the motivator that keeps many fuelled long after they have run out of other resources – belief in the power of teaching to improve young lives and the desire to build a better, more well-educated and informed society.

During the show, the audience are presented with an interactive vote three times – should Roberts stay or leave teaching? This is a changing tally and cleverly asks the audience to make the difficult decision he himself must have faced on a regular basis.

Roberts takes us through his journey from that first teacher who inspired him with her vision, through teaching in China, to returning to teach in the UK and the many sacrifices he had to make along the way – money, a relationship, family events, his own wellbeing.  He talks about how a pupil “just trying” was enough to spark his teaching drive, of his deep concern for those in his remit, of harassment from staff and pupils, violence and murder, and of witnessing “a bottomless pit of need”. His daily struggle to reconcile his values and ethics against the cost- and corner-cutting of his colleagues is both alarming and affecting.

Roberts is an engaging and sincere presence, who interacts with us directly, not only through the three votes we have to make during the show, but also in his earnest reminder that each of us is a teacher, by the things we do and the way we do them. People learn from others’ behaviour and so he implores us to be the best teachers we can be in life; a good lesson to take away from any show.

His passion shines through in every word of this tightly-constructed and directed (by Helen Tennison) show, and it finds traction in his audience, who respond to the show as warmly and enthusiastically as he has presented it. It’s a must-see, not only for teachers, but for anyone who wants our society to be better. TEACH is an essential lesson in humanity. See it and learn.

TEACH plays at The Space at the Surgeon’s Hall, 4.05pm daily to Aug 24 (not 11). Tickets and information here

Note: All Edinburgh shows were seen in preview and therefore it didn’t feel appropriate or fair to star-rate them

EXTRA: Shows to look forward to at the Edinburgh Festival 2019

Welcome to this extra section of show highlights. Here are a few shows which are worth seeing at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival

Although I haven’t had much chance to see participating shows in the Fringe Festival, here are four I can definitely recommend as being worth a look.

Luke Rollason’s Infinite Content – at the Monkey Barrel, 12.00 noon Aug 2-25 (not 14)

Big laughs, where no two shows are ever the same.

Switch on your phones and switch off your brains, as one idiot enters the cloud and puts his mind on a spin cycle for your entertainment. Welcome to a slapstick Black Mirror that is guaranteed to make us all mutual friends. Viral nonsense from the ‘amazingly entertaining’ ***** (EdFestMag.com) celebrity internet nonentity Luke Rollason. Unlimited calls and texts and time and space and hope and everybody wins an iPad. ‘Made me cry with laughter’ **** (BroadwayBaby.com). ‘Hugely entertaining’ (Chortle.co.uk). Tickets and information here

SHE SELLS SEA SHELLS – Underbelly, Cowgate at 1.30pm Aug 1-25 (not 12)

Uncovering the almost-lost achievements of an extraordinary woman.

In 1811, the daughter of a Lyme Regis carpenter discovered the world’s first Ichthyosaur. She was twelve. Before she was thirty, Mary Anning made discoveries that transformed our understanding of the universe. Then she was written out of history. Nearly. Scandal and Gallows bring their blend of movement and storytelling to this extraordinary story of genius, gender and dinosaurs. Previous work: ‘Riveting’ **** (Sunday Times). ‘A masterclass in theatrical storytelling’ **** (WhatsOnStage.com). Tickets and information here

TEACH – The Space at the Surgeon’s Hall, 4.05pm Aug 2-24 (not 11)

A vital lesson that we all need to learn from.

Matthew Roberts is a gifted, passionate and dedicated teacher of 16 years. But the system he has to work within consistently fails both teachers and students. Caught in the middle, teachers become our country’s social firefighters, with all the attendant stress, their dedication stretched to breaking point. Should he stay or leave teaching? Over the course of this show, the audience gets to decide. Tickets and information here

FULFILMENT – Underbelly, Cowgate at 3.40pm Aug 1-25 (not 12)

Who’s paying the true cost of your convenience?

Robox is your personal fulfilment device. The one-click wonder, the ultimate convenience. You dream it, he delivers it. Instant fulfilment. But fulfilment isn’t for everyone. Award-winning theatre company SharkLegs uncover the price people really pay for next-day delivery. Disarmingly funny and playful, the show is created live every day from your desires. Join us and let Robox discover what you need, what you want and what you dream of. Then let Robox provide the solution. A solution… Definitely a bit of a solution… Or a solution that other people who bought this solution also bought. . Tickets and information here