JOYCE MCMILLAN on SUPPLY at Oran Mor, Glasgow, for The Scotsman, 21.9.11

4 stars ****

FROM TO SIR WITH LOVE to Glee, the schoolroom drama featuring the naive and idealistic young teacher is one of the most familiar genres around. It’s rare, though, to see the idea re-worked with such an explosive freshness as in this week’s Play, Pie and Pint lunchtime show, by Scottish-based writer Cathy Forde. Davy Small is young supply teacher, sent to supervise a fourth-year foundation class that has just made mincemeat of its last teacher, Mrs. Cheddar; and when only two class members show up – a pair of gorgeous, mouthy 16-year-olds called Chelsea and Sharon – he still insists on trying to teach them a lesson on the joys of the haiku form.

What’s striking about Cathy Forde’s script is the sheer intensity with which, in 45 short minutes, it succeeds in excavating all the complex layers of Chelsea and Sharon’s indifference to formal education. Bright, fast-talking and infinitely clued-up on every form of online communication, the two nonetheless present themselves as a pair of empty-headed mobile phone addicts, refuse to admit to having read any books despite contrary evidence (“we were Mrs. Cheesy’s pure creme de la creme, Mr. Wee…”), and effortlessly conceal from him the truth that they have, in fact, been taught this lesson on haiku many times before.

Emma Callander’s flawless production achieves a fantastic level of pace and exuberance, as the girls use YouTube to unearth Sir’s history as a failed rock star, and generally floor him with their energy, sophistication and sexual confidence; it draws three terrific performances from Gareth Glen, Claire Gray, and SYT star Katie Barnett. And if there is, somewhere in the text, a sadness about the total eclipse of the formal culture once transmitted in schools, the bleakness is trumped every time by the explosive energy of youth, surfing deftly through the culture of an entire planet, as if it owned the place.


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