Caretakers is performing at C Main at 6.35pm everyday.
‘Those who care, aren’t the ones who stay.’ Caretakers follows the story of Jamie Harrow told through two teachers – the deputy headteacher and a concerned junior teacher.
The plot is told through scenes between Mrs Rutter (deputy) and Ms Lawson. These are each a couple of weeks apart and are symbolised by one of the characters exiting the ‘room’ in a blackout and pacing around the room to show the audience that a new scene is about to take place. The pair did this well and it was very effective in allowing the narrative to continue and pick up pace.
With the concerned Ms Lawson becoming increasingly frustrated with the dismissive Mrs Rutter throughout the play, a very honest picture of the bureaucracy behind the scenes in schools is painted. As Lawson becomes more convinced Harrow is being bullied she starts to rebel against Rutter’s patronizing ‘advice’ which is really just disguising her negligence. Although the audience becomes angry with Rutter and her ineptitude and unhelpfulness, it is still easy to see where Rutter is coming from. Surely a teacher is only responsible for a student so far? They can’t push a bully to confess, or a victim to admit to being bullied for being gay; procedures and regulations give teachers steps to follow for a reason, she argues. However, after it is revealed that Rutter has a personal problem with the issue of the bullying (she is homophobic), her professionality and credibility crumbles. To teach and influence the younger generation, teachers have to be able to suspend their own opinions and beliefs in order to give a balanced and equal education.
It is clear Rutter is incapable of this, and as a result when Harrow commits his crime I couldn’t help but feel vindicated. A little bitter ‘told you so’ to Rutter, although it seemed like a very dramatic consequence of the bullying it was still credible. The ending was slightly more rushed and less polished – the play aims to look at how homophobic bullying is tackled in school and the conclusion was a bit too textbook. I would have respected Lawson more if she had remained for the investigation and explained. There was too much naivety on her part and her relationship with Rutter, where she often fell victim to Rutter’s bullying, was a little weak I thought.
I think that although the play had tried to show homophobic bullying through the relationship between Lawson and Rutter it was a little conflicting in that the audience wasn’t sure whether Harrow or Lawson were the victims we should be focusing on, or whether they were both equally central. I found that it was a bit distracting – as part of a research project looking at the way bullying is dealt with I thought a greater focus could have been on Harrow but I could see where they were going with this other development.
All in all it was a powerful piece of theatre that had the potential to be a lot more hard-hitting than it was realised on stage. Strong actors, Emma Romy-Jones and Penelope McDonald, were captivating on stage and their relationship was realistic and brutal. It is a worthy production with a brave attitude and interesting aim.