The world premiere of the stage version of To Sir, With Love opens with award-winning actor, Matthew Kelly, at the Royal & Derngate on Friday (Sep 6).
Based on E R Braithwaite’s autobiography and brilliantly adapted by Ayub Khan Din (East Is East), To Sir, With Love is the story of Ricky Braithwaite, an ex-RAF fighter pilot and Cambridge graduate who arrives in London in 1948 and discovers the reality of life as a black man in post-war England.
Taking the only job he can get, Ricky begins his first teaching post, in a tough but progressive East End school run by the enlightened headmaster Florian (Kelly).
The determined new teacher, supported by his headmaster, turns teenage rebelliousness into self respect, contempt into consideration and hate into love - and on the way, Ricky himself learns that he has more in common with his students than he had realised.
Made into a major film in 1967 starring Sidney Poitier and featuring a song made famous by Lulu, this new adaptation, played out on the venue’s Royal stage, is peppered with the songs and dance of the late 40s; a time of austerity where love, inspiration and hope win through against all the odds.
Florian is a character based on Alex Bloom, the revolutionary headteacher of St George’s secondary school, Stepney, which employed E R Braithwaite.
One of the UK’s best-loved actors and winner of an Olivier Award for the Touring Consortium’s production of Of Mice and Men, Matthew Kelly has been widely acclaimed for television and theatre performances including Waiting for Godot with Ian McKellen, Troilus and Cressida at The Globe and his chilling performance in the TV drama Cold Blood.
He joins Ansu Kabia, a regular with the Royal Shakespeare Company, who takes the role of Ricky; Mykola Allen (Land Girls) and Nicola Reynolds (Ideal).
To Sir, With Love runs until Sep 28.
For tickets and info call the box office 01604 624811 or visit www.royalandderngate.co.uk.
*To celebrate the opening the theatre is holding a Vintage Open Day on Sep 7 from 4pm until 7.45pm, giving people a chance to enjoy 1940s stalls, games, fashion, music, dance and food