In 2013, Alan Bennett’s The History Boys was voted The Nation’s Favourite Play. It’s certainly one of mine. After a successful run at the National Theatre, a stint on Broadway, a film adaptation and a scene in the NT’s 50th anniversary celebrations, how do you pull off a successful revival of something so iconic and beloved by the public?
After a clean sweep of exceptional A-level results, 8 students return to the classroom in order to spend a year preparing for Oxbridge entrance exams. At odds with each other are teachers Irwin, who is determined to coach the boys in how to write outstanding essays and wow the university dons, and Hector, who is more preoccupied with broadening their horizons and knowledge for its own sake.
Director Kate Jackson does a great job of setting the scene with 80s pop hits as we walk into the auditorium, and Libby Watson’s set design perfectly captures the drab Sheffield classroom with the addition of Hector’s motorbike suspended from above, which adds an extra dimension that prevents this from being too “naturalistic box set”. At times the lighting does seem to be trying too hard to be evocative, occasionally leaving the actors speaking asides in semi-darkness.
My ticket was courtesy of Bargain Theatre – to read the review in full, please click here.
The History Boys is on until Saturday 2nd May 2015 at Churchill Theatre, High Street, Bromley, Kent, BR1 1HA. It is on tour until July 2015. Contains very strong language. Cigarettes are smoked during the performance. For tickets and more information, please go to http://www.historyboysuk.com/