A night well spent locked in the staff room at the Corpus Playroom.
“Clever little shits, aren’t they?”
In Professional, four very different teachers get locked into the staff room overnight. The comedy doesn’t forget to build on stereotypes about pedagogues. There’s the teacher clad in a dusty beige cardigan and pencil skirt (Grainne Dromgoole), the young maths teacher in her mid-twenties (Fran Davis), the self-satisfied English teacher (Eduardo Strike), and the shy drama teacher (Ed Paget). And of course, everybody is single and sexually frustrated.The setting is also well-known from the secondary school. Everyone has their own obsessively protected mug, there is some unidentifiable, smelly green food in the fridge which belongs to nobody, a faded periodic system is hung on the wall and a creepy plastic skull is peeping from the shelf.
The four teachers forced into the same room inevitably behave descend into bickering beyond that of their teenager pupils. The jibes are bitingly savage. I wish I could integrate into my active everyday vocabulary the newly learnt “I hope you’ll die in a photocopy accident” retort. It doesn’t take long before they break out into playground politics.
However, the initial farce based on situation comedy turns into something far darker when they begin a game for to entertain themselves while waiting for help to escape from each other’s company. This game is a twisted version of Truth or Dare, straining at the limits of professionalism through personal confessions. The stake is no less than their jobs.
However, the drama puts also some less scandalous but really serious pedagogical questions on the table beside the lovers. Up until what point can a teacher intervene into the discussions of pupils about their values? Can a teacher break down when he just can’t deal with a badly behaving child having tried everything?
The members of the small carry the weighty drama on their shoulders superbly. The audience faces four stereotypical but well-performed characters. They each dominate the stage in turn, as if playing a game of catch school yard, with each given moment hinging upon depending on who is in charge of the disciplining. The characters of Eduardo Strike and Fran Davis had a long, frozen moment staring into each other’s eyes at which I couldn’t help waiting for their words with bated breath.
The teachers on stage may be flirting with the lines of professionalism but this play is strikingly professional in its execution.