The Drama Teacher

A feature screenplay by Stephanie Hutchinson

Synopsis

A young, idealistic teacher grapples with her grief by taking on a job teaching drama at a tough, inner London secondary school.

When her world crashes down and grief threatens to consume and destroy her after the loss of their infant son Hugo, Lili withdraws from her husband James and their old life to begin a challenging new job in east London. Lili welcomes the brash, brilliant energy of the students and resolves to reveal to them a future that brims with hope, far beyond the suffocating confines of their council estate community. Slowly she captivates the students with her unwavering belief in their potential and her passion for drama. When she takes them into central London to attend a performance at the National Theatre, their perspectives on life shift and they start to believe in themselves.

Against the advice of the beleaguered principal Mr Stewart, Lili decides to stage a Shakespeare production. The lead role is assigned to Adebayo, an astonishing young talent. Unbeknownst to him, Lili sends a recording of his audition monologue to a prestigious London drama school – LAMDA. Rehearsals begin in earnest, but Lili’s work overtakes her life and threatens her relationship with James. She works longer and later into the night. On her way home one night she is violently assaulted by a gang of teenage girls and her engagement ring is stolen. Lili recognizes one of the girls as Adebayo’s sister, Jasmine. However even this experience doesn’t deter her from her mission to offer her students a way out of their predestined life of drugs and crime.

Horrified, James begs her to quit, but Lili is adamant. For the first time she feels emotions other than all-encompassing grief and refuses to let go. In rehearsals the next day Adebayo suffers a fall and is rushed to hospital with a head injury. His life hanging in the balance, Lili is suspended from the school for negligence. Lili meets Adebayo’s mother in the hospital waiting room who tells Lili to stop encouraging her son to dream, as dreams cost money she doesn’t have. Seeing Adebayo on life support brings back the agony of Hugo’s absence and Lili realises that in trying to numb her pain, she has been blocking out the one, true, deep love of her life – James. She rushes home to tell him, only to find an empty flat.

Jasmine meets Lili to update her on Adebayo’s recovery, as well as his success in securing a place and scholarship at LAMDA. Jasmine asks Lili why she never turned her in to the police after the assault. Lili opens up about her baby Hugo and how she sees his beauty, strength and potential in every one of them. Jasmine returns Lili’s engagement ring and begs her to give them another chance. Lili hires a local theatre to stage their production but rehearsals are halted by police when the school finds out. However with support from parents, Lili gains approval to go ahead and the performances are an astounding triumph.

James is waiting at Stage Door for Lili at the end of the show and they embrace, stumbling over each other’s apologies and declarations of love. James tells her he has been offered a job in Sydney and they commit to a new start together. In the final scene Lili is settled, content, her own future brimming with new life and hope after the birth of their daughter.

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