'191 Days' Play Review

“Teechers” by John Godber is a play that revolves around the disadvantages failing students have in the education system. It’s never said, but rather implied, that the school is situated in a working class area, and is ‘rough’. The story it tells, framed through a play within a play, is one of my favourite stories ever told on stage. When I heard “191 days” was a play about teachers and students in a disadvantaged area I immediately thought of the brilliance that was “Teechers” and I was quite looking forward to it.

The performances in “191..” are solid, even though characterisation and plot focus is all over the place. The main character of the ensemble cast, Francis (played by Will Manning) is, out of the cast of characters in the play, the most boring. He’s good at what he does, which is writing songs, and his character arc doesn’t really progress beyond that. At many different parts of the play I found myself asking why he was the main character, when Jess (played by Morrigan Swabey-Harrison) and Chris (played by Luther Lucas) and Barney (played by Jack Edwards) all have so much more going on in terms of their individual character arcs, but only Chris’ is expanded on. Jess and Barney’s arcs are eventually brought to their conclusion, but because we don’t know their characters well enough we don’t really care about them. Will has a fantastic voice, but the character he portrays gives the audience so little to care about outside of being “friendzoned”, which actually turned me off of his character.

In addition to faults with the character focus the plot is just as unfocused and is nearly always too on the nose: the audience is told how it should feel by the characters on the stage, and even I, a pro-Corbyn Labour voter, found the political monologues (of which there are far too many) too much. Add on the fact that it’s very clear that the play sometimes loses track of its own plot, and the performances start to be outweighed by the non-existent pacing and unfocused plot.

Though there are major issues, three things really shone through in this performance: the dancers (Samantha Crawford and Ashleigh Knight) who didn’t miss a beat during the musical performances, the band (Lukas McCabe, Michael Butcher, Izzy Dennis and Stephen Quiney) who were fantastic, and the character of Councillor Percival, played by George Ross, who did a fantastic job in playing such a hateable character.

Overall “191 days” is a poor story, buoyed by the performance of the cast, band and dancers. I’d still recommend you see it, if only for the performances.

I give "191 Days" a 5/10.

- Jack O'Leary