History Boys Review

Civic Theatre, Darlington – 16 June 2015

In 2013 The History Boys was voted “The Nations Favourite Play” and its easy to understand why.  It has all the classic elements needed – happiness and sad, good times and bad.  Characters that you care about and a storyline that draws you in. And a brilliant soundtrack of 80’s music punctuating the different scenes

Typically Alan Bennett, the show is based in Yorkshire, at a boys grammar school in Sheffield.  Set in the early 1980s, the play follows a group of history pupils preparing for the Oxford and Cambridge entrance examinations under the guidance of three teachers (Hector, Irwin, and Lintott) with contrasting styles.

Hector (Richard Hope) is the perfect teacher, loved by all his charges, because he doesn’t believe in any of the nonsense where teachers teach people stuff. His preferred method is to allow them to intuit, experience and feel their way into knowledge

However the Headmaster (Christopher Ettridge) wants results and supply teacher Irwin (Mark Field) is employed.  Irwin represents the antithesis of Hector’s enlightened attitudes. And there are clashes with Hector teaching them for their future and Irwin teaching to the test.

The show is very wordy, and not all of them are in English with a very memorable scene in French.  The acting is superb, with seasoned professionals along side some very young and inexperienced thespians some of which were making their stage débuts in this play.  Multi-talented performers not just acting but singing and playing the piano too.  Steven Roberts (Posner), Kedar Williams-Stirling (Dakin), Alex Hope (Scripps), David Young (Rudge), Patrick McNamee (Lockwood), Sid Sagar (Akthar), Joshua Mayes-Cooper (Timms) breathed life, confidence and fragility in their characters.  And, whilst they weren’t the 16, 17 and 18 year old Sheffield boys who I grew up with they were believable if not realistic

In a play that had its first performance just 11 years ago its become a phenomenal success, but that may be in part to the original National Theatre cast who have since gone on to be world famous stars.

In Darlington until Saturday 20th June and on a UK tour