Dalin Oliver opens with a sharp turn down memory lane, recalling the emotions of a learner awaiting marks from a cynical teacher. Cue a flood of relief from audience members who will never be in that position again.
In his former role as a maths and history teacher, Oliver reveals he was full of stern reprimands. As a comedian he brings out the lighter side of some dark school musings. As an amuse bouche for what is to come at the National Arts Festival in Grahamstown, Alexander Upstairs is hosting no less than 16 bite-sized shows, each bound for Festival, in the two weeks before it officially opens. Last night’s show was I Came, I Taught, I Left from a comedian who has been seen alongside the likes of Nik Rabinowitz, Stuart Taylor and Riaad Moosa.
Within the small confines of Alexander Upstairs, Dalin Oliver delved into a rite of passage on the school cricket field, a strange moment in the staff room and the dreaded existence of detention. The audience is frequently drawn into classic examples of classroom behaviour; the jokers, the lovers and the youngster who really should have graduated… were it not for certain intellectual failings.
The familiar school events are made all the more realistic by Oliver’s colourful viewpoint, which emphasises all the myriad frustrations of trying to be a teacher in South Africa today. After all the fun and games, he rounds off with his experiences of coaching cricket and shares some interesting ideas on the fate of Hansie Cronje and his connection with Hashim Amla.
I Came, I Taught, I Left, is rich with images of paperwork, of personalities, of the change in attitude and energy required to be a successful teacher: all elements for which, despite five years of teacher training, Oliver was utterly unprepared. For this show however, he is in his element.
I Came, I Taught, I Left ran at Alexander Upstairs on 24 June 2014 and can be seen at the National Arts Festival in July 2014.