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The History Boys at the Theatre Royal Windsor

Published by: Clare Brotherwood on 11th Mar 2015 | View all blogs by Clare Brotherwood

Since it was first staged at the National Theatre in 2004, Alan Bennett’s comedy about a sixth-form’s rite of passage has won more than 30 awards and been voted the nation’s favourite play.

The History Boys

It’s not hard to see why. We have all been teenagers, at school (except for the growing number of home-educated!), so we can all relate to the story and the characters in some way. But Bennett takes it further. His teachers and pupils cover love, sex and death. His teachers don’t seem to adhere to rules and the boys are wittier than a lot of ‘real’ teenagers. And, as it was written by Bennett, the language is sublime, though it does degenerate (as in real life).

It’s not an easy ride. Often it is quite deep, though there are plenty of lighter, almost pantomimic, moments. But Sell A Door Theatre Company’s cast carries it off as well as the actors who starred in the 2006 film – which is quite something as several of the ‘boys’ are making their professional stage debuts. I especially like Hollyoaks’ Steven Roberts’ sensitive performance as Posner, a boy who is struggling with his sexuality and often breaks into song with a thin, reed-like voice which has his audience in stitches.

Because of today’s current climate there are elements which may have been funny in 2004 (though I doubt it) but which I now find uncomfortable – namely English teacher Hector’s ‘fiddling’ with his pupils – especially as he remains popular among both staff and pupils. Nevertheless, I found Richard Hope’s portrayal of the motorbiking lover of language far more likeable (how many victims of abuse have made that mistake?) than that by Richard Griffith in the film version, while Christopher Ettridge as the hypocritical headmaster is far more creepy. Meanwhile, it seems Mark Field has been made to look like Alan Bennett for his part as the supply teacher Irwin, which is unfortunate as he too has his dark side.

The History Boys is at the Theatre Royal Windsor until March 14.

Box Office: 01753853888

The tour then continues:

March 17-21: Kings Theatre, Edinburgh

March 23-28: The New Wolsey Theatre, Ipswich

March 31-April 4: Everyman Theatre, Cheltenham

April 14-18: The Grand Theatre, Blackpool

April 22-25: Kings Theatre, Portsmouth

April 27-May 2: Churchill Theatre, Bromley

May 5-9: Lyceum Theatre, Crewe

May 12-16: Millenium Forum, Derry

May 19-23: Opera House, Buxton

May 26-30: Northcott Theatre, Exeter

June 1-6: Wyvern Theatre, Swindon

June 8-13: Grand Opera House, York

June 16-20: Darlington Civic Theatre, Darlington



1 Comment

  • Cameron Lowe
    by Cameron Lowe 3 years ago
    Thanks, Clare. I agree. Our view of the content of established work can change over time as the context of our experience in the real world changes while the play remains the same.
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