The Happiest Days of your Life

Manchester Royal Exchange: 2 Dec 03 - 17 Jan 04

There's a delightful cameo from award-winning Joanna Riding as the dotty Miss (call me Sausage) Gossage, who nearly steals the show with her hockey sticks akimbo. - Manchester online

Joanna Riding has a ball playing the dotty Miss Gossage and proves again what a fine comedienne she is. - Whatson Stage

The staffroom cynic Mr Billings (nicely played with floppy-limbed petulance by Simon Robson) even divides female teachers into two categories: "Group one: the Battleaxe - baleful, brainy and belligerent. Group two: the Hearty Amazon - healthy, high-school and hail-fellow-well-met." As the severe Miss Whitchurch and her bumptious sidekick Miss Gossage, Janet Henfrey and Joanna Riding turn in exemplary illustrations of categories one and two. - Guardian

There were some wonderful performances, especially that of the 'jolly hockey-stick' - over-excitable Miss Gossage (Joanna Riding) - BBC

Hewson's elegant restraint focuses laughter among the mistresses in Joanna Riding's effervescent, fresh-faced Miss Gossage. Entering with a backpack from which two hockey-sticks peer antennae-like, giving her the look of a cheery hare, Riding swirls and swoops over the stage with gleeful, glee-inducing, mania. - reviewsgate

Philip Madoc's blustering Pond and Janet Henfrey's flinty Miss Whitchurch lead a faultless cast, with stand-out performances from Simon Robson, suave and effete as the wisecracking master Mr Billings, and Joanna Riding, whose hilarious Miss Gossage is hopelessly smitten by him. From her first entrance, Riding is irresistible - The Times

The highlight of the show is undoubtedly Joanna Riding's Miss Gossage, capping a glorious year in which she won an Olivier for her Eliza in My Fair Lady and gave a superlative performance as Maggie in the Royal Exchange's production of Hobson's Choice.

She arrives on stage, neat, pink-faced and bespectacled, with two hockey sticks sprouting from her knapsack like the wings of an angel, the personification of sporty innocence. But, as she regards Simon Robson's hilariously camp and seedy Mr Billings, a man who regards all women with extravagant horror having been brought up by four maiden aunts, you cannot fail to notice the carnal glint in her eye, and at moments of high excitement her breathless schoolgirl lingo - "By Jove, it's getting on for netters' time" - gives way to little barks of repressed passion. - Telegraph

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