To Sir With Love

Tears and laughter this week at Theatre Royal…

Belly laughs and tears- it’s rare for a performance to provide both, but Ayub Khan Din’s adaptation of ER Braithwaite’s novel ‘To Sir, with Love’ does just that.

We first meet RAF pilot Ricky Braithwaite in a state of desperation; which isn’t surprising seeing as he’s black, in 1940s London and looking for employment.

This predicament leads him into the open arms of eccentric headmaster Florian, played by Matthew Kelly (yes, the Matthew Kelly from Stars in their Eyes) and the play soon kicks off with Ricky teaching a bunch of East End kids, who look like they’ve just stepped off a 1940s themed Waterloo Road.

Ansu Kabia and Matthew Kelly

Ansu Kabia and Matthew Kelly

Ansu Kabia (Ricky) is perfect in conveying the strict, wise teacher but as the play progresses, he shows he’s equally talented in conveying vulnerability as he encounters racism both in and out of the workplace.

The serious tone of the plot is dominant throughout which shows Ayub Khan Din’s faithfulness to the novel; however the play’s main attraction was the brilliantly acted comedy scenes.

Director Mark Babych provides emotional relief for the audience through the classroom scenes, despite the postwar derelict classroom setting. It’s Clinty’s (Nicola Reynolds) brilliant timing that really stole the show.

A 1940's Waterloo Road

A 1940’s Waterloo Road

The swing dance sequences that break up the scenes show the writer’s effort to provide a varying plot and not just focus on the doom and gloom of societal prejudices.

The script is rather slow moving and fails to fully identify with the troubled class individually, which is a shame as Ricky’s character is so deeply explored. The final scene redeems all of this. It leaves the audience as hopeful as Mr. Braithwaite and his class for the future.

The play is a must-watch, you’ll leave laughing and feeling educated– just don’t forget the Kleenex!

To Sir With Love is on at Theatre Royal until Saturday. Tickets from £14, book here

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