Poliakoff's My City
I was with a friend in Brussels the other day when we had a discussion about the quality of education and the idea that teachers need to be more valued by our society. In the midst of the discussion I reminded him that this is the exact topic of Poliakoff's latest play that we had seen in the previous week at the Almeida in London.
In an interview published in the Almeida program, Poliakoff revealed, "I am also fascinated by teachers who have dedicated their lives to public service and by ending their professional careers lose the worlds they created."
Not many of us have had the chance to meet an inspiring teacher who was also a great storyteller, like the mysterious Miss Lambert, the main character in the play brillantly performed by Tracey Ullman. Lambert and her two ex-colleagues, Mr Minken (David Troughton) and Miss Summers (Sorcha Cusack), come from another time, constantly remembered through flashbacks of school assemblies and through the stories told to two of their old dyslexic pupils Richard (Tom Riley) and Julie (Sian Brooke).
As a child, you never realize that teachers have their own life. This is evoked in Act Two Scene 1 of the play where all the characters are sitting in Minken's basement flat when Richard says, "when you're little you never imagine teachers having homes do you, having front doors that they disapear through at the end of the day. You think they must live at the school somehow, in grand rooms you never see, looked after by the dinner ladies".
Throughout the play, objects and sounds play important roles in creating the atmosphere of past and current London. It is a work full of poetry, sensuality, and tenderness.
My City is at the Almeida until 5 November. www.almeida.co.uk