Fresh, lively and joyously energetic, director Michael Longhurst’s new production of Alan Bennett’s classic has a great deal to recommend it.
The young cast playing the testosterone-fuelled gaggle of sixth formers at a Sheffield boys grammar school preparing for Oxbridge exams are all excellent. There are standout performances from Oliver Coopersmith as the sensitive Posner and from Tom Rhys Harries as arrogant Dakin, the object of his classmate’s desire. The youngsters get solid support from Matthew Kelly as their eccentric teacher Hector, Julia St John as his straight-talking colleague Mrs Lintott, Nicholas Day as the blustering headmaster and Edwin Thomas as the sly and cynical young Irwin, called in to put the boys through their paces. Kelly’s performance, though competent and convincing is surprisingly a little lacklustre. The staging – built around a recreation of an old school gym and allowing a view into the headmaster’s office and the staff room – is superbly realised, while the transitions between scenes are slickly executed. Despite the delicious one-liners and witty, well-turned phrases, Bennett’s play is, however, hugely problematic in that it asks the audience to forgive a central character, Hector, whose behaviour – surreptitiously fondling his students while giving them a lift on his motorbike – is unsavoury at best.
To June 8.
The Crucible, Theatre Sheffield