Skip to main content

The History Boys

King's Theatre, Edinburgh
Three stars

It's an interesting time for the enterprising Sell A Door company to be reviving Alan Bennett's boy's school smash hit a decade after it first appeared before going on to global acclaim on stage and screen. In a post Yewtree environment when barely a day passes without reports of establishment-based indiscretions with minors, having a maverick teacher who touches up his teenage pupils on the back of his motorbike at a play's centre probably means something different today to how it did back then.

Not that Bennett's 1980s-set play, in which Richard Hope's literature loving English master Hector prepares his very own crème de la crème for Oxbridge entrance exams, aims to shock. It is so pithily written, in fact, that Hector's downfall, when it comes, is treated with almost apologetic understatement.

Kate Saxon's production heightens things from the off, with Hector's motorbike hanging at the centre of the stage above his locked classroom full of precocious aesthetes like some carefully perched museum piece. It is Mark Field's proto Gove-like Irwin who points to the future in what becomes an impressionistic hymn to an age when education was about more than curriculums and quotas and cheesy pop came packed with quotably hormonal lyrics.

What Bennett illustrates most of all is the long-term consequences of every action, be it war, an exam result or a motorbike ride past the local charity shop. As for Hector's boys, while they go on to succeed in conventional terms, as Irwin says of their essays, they become dull, dull, dull. Like him, they had all their poetry educated out of them beyond the moment that shaped them.
 
The Herald, March 20th 2015

ends

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

Peter Brook – The Prisoner

Peter Brook is no stranger to Scotland, ever since the guru of European and world theatre first brought his nine-hour epic, The Mahabharata, to Glasgow in 1988. That was at the city’s old transport museum, which by 1990 had become Tramway, the still-functioning permanent venue that opened up Glasgow and Scotland as a major channel for international theatre in a way that had previously only been on offer at Edinburgh International Festival.
Brook and his Paris-based Theatre des Bouffes du Nord company’s relationship with Tramway saw him bring his productions of La Tragedie de Carmen, La Tempete, Pellease et Mellisande, The Man Who…, and Oh Les Beaux Jours – the French version of Samuel Beckett’s Happy Days – to Glasgow.
Thirty years on from The Mahabharata, Brook comes to EIF with another piece of pan-global theatre as part of a residency by Theatre des Bouffes du Nord, which Brook has led since he decamped to Paris from London in the early 1970s. The current Edinburgh residency has alr…

Romeo And Juliet - Shakespeare's Globe Comes to Glasgow

Open-air Shakepeares are a summer-time perennial of the theatre calendar, attracting picnicking audiences as much as midges. More often than not, such romps through the grass are frothy, heritage industry affairs designed to be accompanied by strawberries and cream and not to be taken too seriously. Shakespeare’s Globe theatre company look set to change such perceptions when they open their outdoor tour of Romeo And Juliet in Glasgow next week as part of the West End festival.

For the two young actors taking the title roles of the doomed lovers, it will also be something of a homecoming. Richard Madden and Ellie Piercy both studied in Glasgow prior to turning professional. Indeed, Madden has yet to graduate from the acting course at RSAMD, and, as well as facing the pressures of playing such a meaty role in close proximity to the audience, will have the added anxiety of being assessed and graded by his tutors.

“This is the end of my third year,” says Madden following a Saturday mornin…

Suzy Glass – Message from the Skies

Freedom of movement matters to Suzy Glass, the arts and events producer currently overseeing the second edition of Message from the Skies.This animated literary derive around the city forms part of this year’s Edinburgh’s Hogmanay programme, and runs right through till Burns’ Night. Glass’ concerns are inherent in the event itself, which has commissioned six writers from different disciplines and experiences to each pen a love letter to Europe. Each writer has then paired up with a composer and visual artist or film-maker, with the results of each collaboration projected in monumental fashion on the walls of one of half a dozen of the capital’s most iconic buildings.
With venues stretching from the south side of Edinburgh to Leith, and with one city centre stop requiring a walk up Calton Hill, there is considerable legwork required to complete the circuit. It shouldn’t be considered a race, however, and audiences are free to move between venues at their leisure, visiting each site on d…