TV presenter and actor Matthew Kelly will be taking a challenging new role in a play coming to the Royal and Derngate from tomorrow (Friday).
He stars in To Sir, With Love, which 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 played by 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.
Speaking about his part in the play, Kelly said: “Florian is based on an extraordinary man called Alex Bloom.
“He was a radical educationalist and his ideas were never more relevant as they are now.
“He is regarded as one of the greatest figures in state education who was interested in the children in his care rather than complying with the political charges of his age.
“His role would be impossible now but I hope that one of things this production will do is question the whole political aspect of our current education system.”
The play is based on E R Braithwaite’s autobiography and has been adapted for the stage by East Is East scrive Ayub Khan Din.
He is also a patron of the Touring Consortium Theatre Company (TCTC) who have co-produced the show with the theatre’s in house production team.
He added: “I think this is a very exciting company. It is led by Jenny King and Matthew Gale who produced Of Mice and Men.
“They have a strong educational ethos which I love – I feel it is important for a patron of any company to believe in the values of the company that they are patron of and I am very excited to be involved with TCTC.
“They have ambitious plans for the next three years and I am delighted to be part of that journey.
“I will enjoy meeting the staff at all the venues we are visiting and will do what I can on the tour to promote the TCTC but also the importance of theatre in our culture and our country’s well-being.”
The show is also a personal first for Kelly.
The actor added: “I have never played Northampton but I have seen a few productions in the Royal and it is a really beautiful theatre.
“We are rehearsing in Northampton too so I will get a chance to get to know the town a bit.”
Appearing alongside Ansu Kabia, a regular with the Royal Shakespeare Company, as Ricky. The cast also includes Mykola Allen, seen in three series of BBC1 period drama Land Girls and Nicola Reynolds best known from BBC3 sitcom Ideal, where she appeared with Johnny Vegas.
The show runs until Saturday September 28. Tickets cost between £13 to £28, with a family ticket available for £70.
For more details or to book tickets, call the box office on 01604 624811 or visit www.royalandderngate.co.uk