John Dighton's well-loved farce has been seen on stage and screen. Considering it was first performed in 1948 it's a credit to Royal Exchange director Braham Murray and the cast of this new production that it does not feel too dated.

It is the start of a new school term at Hilary Hall College For Boys. The first after the end of the Second World War. Staff and pupils are looking forward to returning to normality. But they didn't bank on girls being taught in the same school building due to a clerical mix up. Cue for much hilarity and old school British humour as the two sexes try to avoid being seen within the same premises for the sake of the overbearing parents.

Murray directs the farce with ease. During the chaotic second act, there are slamming doors, mistaken identities, and crossed wires. Each member of the cast has superb comic timing helped by Murray's instinct to build the pace and not to overdo the humour and the histrionics too soon.

Janet Henfrey's hatchet-faced Miss Whitchurch is delightful. Her ‘How Dare You’ face is a joy to watch. Simon Robson plays Rupert Billings from the Boys School and his natural comic delivery is superb. James Cash and Anna Hewson play two teachers who manage to find love among the chaos, they have great chemistry as the awkward twosome.

Philip Madoc gives a fine performance as the Headmaster Godfrey Pond who tries to keep it together but ends up joining in with the deceptive staff. Joanna Riding has a ball playing the dotty Miss Gossage and proves again what a fine comedienne she is. The sheer energy of the entire cast is infectious and reaches the audience through the laughter.

Simon Higlett's wonderful set evokes memories of changing rooms, hidden staff quarters and old Christmas decorations covered in cobwebs. Richard Owen's evocative lighting also enhances the sense of old school further.

Like Noises Off this classic farce is so much more than an end of the pier comedy. The Happiest Days Of Your Life is a humorous celebration of youth in post war Britain. In other words, a perfect Christmas treat!

- Glenn Meads