To Sir, With Love

  • By E.R Braithwaite
  • Co-Directors: Gwenda Hughes and Tom Saunders
  • Cast Includes: Philip Morris, Matt Crosby, Polly Lister
  • Birmingham Repertory Theatre, Birmingham
  • Until 6th May 2017
  • Reviewed by Katie Webster
  • 27 April 2017
To Sir, With Love
5.0Reviewer's Rating

To Sir, With Love follows Ricardo Braithwaite – a skilled engineer who came to Britain prior to the outbreak of World War II as a member of the RAF.  Discharged from service in 1945, he is forced to accept a job as a teacher as post-war prejudice in Birmingham rendered him unable to find his place in society.  Assigned to the ‘difficult’ senior class, we see how integrity, unity and humility transforms the characters and translates immaculately to the audience to produce a stunning piece of theatre.

It is consistently evident throughout that despite being set in post-war Britain, the issues addressed are relevant globally today. The performances of the cast means this is presented in an amusing and tender way, ever heightening those underlying themes.  Philip Morris (Ricardo Braithwaite) plays a believable and sensitive protagonist to much success, particularly when interacting with the young actors playing the members of his class, many of which are members of the Young REP programme.  Morris gives us an insight into the toil Braithwaite faced at the time, offering a beautiful and distinct character an audience can easily emotionally invest in.  Jessica Watts (Gillian Blanchard) and Polly Lister (Vivienne Clintridge) are heart-warming, maternal figures in the school, presenting flawless yet witty characters.  Each and every character is artistically crafted and successfully portrayed, meaning audiences to relate even further to the issues and continues to amplify the success of this production.

This is a play we can learn from.  A play set in the past, yet still painfully relevant.  Despite these lessons, the artistic skills of the entire company show that, despite there being major divisions in society, unity is still possible. This happiness in a divided nation is showed through a fun, powerful and thought provoking piece, immaculately presented by the talented cast.  Many may be familiar with previous adaptations of this novel, but the personal connections to Birmingham feel perfectly placed for REP audiences and Ayub Khan-Din must be recognised for this reworking.  This piece resonates with and represents human beings to much avail, recognising the life-affirming pros and destructive cons of modern society and its tortured past.

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