School tale captures post-war East End

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Award-winning actor Matthew Kelly is to star as the headmaster in a new stage version of E R Braithwaite’s To Sir, With Love.

The play will be staged at the Royal & Derngate in Northampton from Friday, September 6, until Saturday, September 28, before touring the country.

Based on Braithwaite’s autobiography and adapted by East Is East writer Ayub Khan Din, To Sir, With Love is the story of Ricky, an ex-RAF fighter pilot, 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.

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 learns he has more in common with his students than he realised.

Matthew Kelly plays Florian, a character based on Alex Bloom, the revolutionary headteacher of St George’s secondary school in Stepney, which employed the real life E R Braithwaite. Matthew has been widely acclaimed for TV and theatre performances including Waiting For Godot with Ian McKellen and Troilus and Cressida at The Globe.

Made into a major film in 1967, starring Sidney Poitier and featuring a song made famous by Lulu, this new stage adaptation is peppered with the songs and dance of the late 1940s. Tickets cost from £13 to £28. Family tickets are also available. To book, or for more information about the show, ring 01604 624811 or log on to the theatre’s website, www.royalandderngate.co.uk.