History Boys (National Theatre, Lyttelton)
Alan Bennett has always excelled at being a detached observer of
human behaviour in all its foibles and idiosyncrasies.
richly funny and superbly intelligent play about education and
history, learning and culture, transports us all straight back
to the classroom..."
in this deeply personal and minutely observed account of a bunch
of bright Northern grammar school boys preparing for their Oxbridge
entrance exams - as he himself did in the 50s - he is as implicated
as he was once involved.
The play is larger than this narrow personal reach suggests, because
everyone, of course, has been to school.
this richly funny and superbly intelligent play about education
and history, learning and culture, transports us all straight back
to the classroom.
however, that we were all as fortunate as this particular class.
doubt for reasons of theatrical economics, we only get to meet four
teachers and eight pupils a teacher/student ratio that would
be envied by any school in the land.
Here they're being provided with the kind of liberal education that
teaches them to think for themselves and in the process throws
down plenty for us to think about, too.
chaotic general studies classes of teacher Hector the forever
larger-than-life Richard Griffiths may take place mysteriously
behind locked doors, but he unlocks in his charges the kind of passions
that have them quoting TS Eliot and Housman, enacting scenes from
Brief Encounter and singing George Formby and Gracie Fields
also learn a whole lot more when they accept lifts home on the back
of his motorbike.)
more rigorous are the history classes of a new arrival, the supply
teacher Mr Irwin (Stephen Campbell Moore), who schools them in the
kind of techniques that are most likely to impress a bored examiner.
wryly comic: Frances de la Tour
the dryly, wryly comic Mrs Lintott of Frances de la Tour hilariously
completes the set of teachers, the pupils, too, are beautifully
realised in a brilliant ensemble that includes Dominic Cooper and
Samuel Barnett, both full of awakening adolescent sexual desires.
This is a powerful and poignant play, staged with finesse by director
Nicholas Hytner and acted with flair.
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