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Mr Grebe Is Taking Your Class Today
Camden Comedy Club
1st August 2017


Publicity image for Mr Grebe Is Taking Your Class Today

Photography provided by Donal Coonan

Sometimes, there is method in the madness. I learnt how to conjugate in Italian by watching my secondary school teacher gallop up and down the classroom like a horse. (True story. And incidentally, a valid foreign language teaching tool.) Sometimes, there's just madness in the madness. Now, I wouldn't say Mr Grebe (Donal Coonan) is crazy as such or necessarily on his way to a nervous breakdown - okay, scratch that last statement - but when he walks in, you sense he is a man who has suffered lately. Mr Grebe Is Taking Your Class Today is an hour-long lesson on absolutely everything delivered by someone who despite appearances to the contrary, is a rather outstanding supply teacher. Take that, Ofsted.

Coonan plays the role of a world-weary teacher with the convincing demeanour of someone who actually works in education. (Fun fact, he is indeed a teacher by day.) Wearing a red blazer that is far too large for his thin frame and that swamps him like a awkward schoolboy in hand-me-downs, Mr Grebe shuffles into the room clutching a bag for life full of seemingly random possessions that doesn't make him any cooler. You just know that if this were a real lesson, Mr Grebe's pupils would be racing each other to see who could make him break first. Instead, the audience in Camden warm to him immediately, quickly volunteering answers to his questions and willingly taking part in his group activities without needing the threat of lines or detention to make them behave. There's something magnetic in this show (and I'm not just talking about the physics lesson).

Highlights of Mr Grebe's unconventional lesson planning include an existential crisis complete with an oddly charming song (philosophy) and an observation of the birds and the... well, butterflies, actually (biology). You will be amazed at how many subjects he can cover in under 60 minutes. Audience participation is crucial to the jokes landing which can be a risky move, however proves no problem for Coonan. His timing too is excellent, pausing at just the right moments to allow us to reflect on what he's just imparted and in many cases, for his underdog character to tug at our heart strings and make us feel sorry for him. As well as laughing at the bizarre and often dark humour, you may also find your brain working hard to remember the finer detail of what you learned in school should there be an opportunity to win Mr Grebe's praise later.

Coonan has admittedly never been on our radar, but the Camden Comedy Club has form for booking a few great surprises every Camden Fringe and this is definitely one of them. Whilst other former teachers will strongly relate to this show, anyone who's ever been to school or just been alive will get a kick out of Mr Grebe Is Taking Your Class Today.

By the end of the lesson, I've not only laughed so hard it physically hurts a little (and remembered why I left teaching), but I find myself desperately wanting to run after Mr Grebe and reassure him that everything will be okay. I'm not sure that it will be. Equal parts hilarious and heartbreaking, Mr Grebe is a brilliantly written comedy character who I sincerely hope to see again.

Mr Grebe Is Taking Your Class Today opened on 31st July and runs until 2nd August 2017 at the Camden Comedy Club, as part of the Camden Fringe.

Nearest tube station: Camden Town (Northern)

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