It’s outstanding from the moment it opens right until the final curtain.
Originally written in 1976, Russell’s play about a school teacher’s progress class, who are promised a day out to Alton Towers but are taken to North Wales instead, became a TV hit.
The basis of the story is still the same but the introduction of mobile phones and - often quite shocking - language spoken between the kids, making up the chorus, are some of the modern additions to the updated script.
Gillian Hardie plays the teacher with a sense of fun, Mrs Kay, while Royal Court regular – Andrew Schofield – plays the tweed-wearing teacher of discipline, Mr Briggs. Two teachers we have all experienced in our lifetime. Both are superb, although Schofield proves again he is a genius of comical timing and his transition within the production keeps your eyes glued to the stage.
Even the animals used for the zoo scenes are ones of note. I was informed the hen was the first ‘celebrity’ animal to appear in a Royal Court production having appeared in BBC soap Doctors.
A clever use of boxes create a simple set which changes from a bus, school and beach, enhanced with a projection screen at the back of the stage. But Russell and his team have unearthed over 25 kids for the chorus who can all perform at a level quite outstanding.
From Caitlin Evans’ cuteness to Mia Molloy clutching at your heart as a young girl from a volatile home, to Sinead Thompson and Kelly Forshaw, as two girls who find everything “borin’”, and the dance movements from Stephanie Davis, Rio Samuels and Josh Wharmby. All were excellent.
Michael Starke brings experience to the stage as Ronny the coach driver and gets to sing and dance with the ‘Boss Of The Bus’ number in the first act.
‘We’re Off’ and ‘Scream If You Wanna Go Faster’ were other catchy songs written into the script and ‘Beach Boy’ performed by Holly Quin Ankrah (as supply teacher, Katie) in a move to scare off class bully Reilly (Chris Mason), had those in the auditorium transfixed.
And looking at the expressions on the kids’ faces as every single member of the audience were on their feet in rapturous applause at the end, you could sense an immense pride and they have every right to be proud.
They were simply the best.
*Photograph taken by Dave Evans