WHEN I interviewed Alan Bennett he insisted this fabulous play wasn't a critique of the education system and the way it acts as a never ending production line producing academic robots.
Even though, in the avuncular Hector we have a teacher who flies the flag for free thinking, engaging his lively and engaging young charges like no other member of staff.
We all love Hector, a gift of a role for Richard Sails, who certainly doesn't look a gift horse in thee mouth here. This is a fine performance from Sails, who commands the stage even when bouts of unruliness break out in his classroom.
Young teacher Irwin - yet another eye catching performance from the consistently impressive Anthony Morris - is a second rate substitute. He struggles to cope with this challenging bunch of boys, who have begun what they hope will be an academic journey to Oxbridge. Hector, on the other hand, would prefer them to be well rounded individuals with enquiring minds that transcend the textbooks.
Celia Bonner is terrific as Mrs Linott, the only female member of staff. I've harped on for a while about the exciting young stage talent emerging at this theatre and Gabriel Walker and David Beeby, who play students Dakin and Posner, are a classic casein point. Gabriel is very funny as Dakin, with his unique brand of philosophy and I like the way David handles his character's burgeoning homosexuality.
Top marks from me, of a production of a play by an undisputed national treasure. Go and bask in Bennett's brilliance.
* Until November 5. The box office is on 0161 928 1677. Star rating - ****