Set in the 1980s, The History Boys questions the purpose and means of education. In a school where the headmaster cares only about exam results, a bunch of excitable sixth-form boys go about their pursuit of the important things: sex, sport and a university place.
Since its premiere at the National on 18 May 2004, The History Boys’ myriad awards to date have included: Best Play at the Evening Standard and Critics’ Circle Awards, Best New Play at the Olivier Awards, Best New Comedy at the Whatsonstage.com Theatregoers’ Choice Awards and, in New York, no fewer than six Tony Awards, including Best Play and Best Direction of a Play.
In the current cast, seen on the road last year for the play’s second major UK tour, Stephen Moore plays unconventional English teacher Hector (originated on stage and screen Richard Griffiths), with Isla Blair (as Mrs Lintott), William Chubb (as the Headmaster) and Orlando Wells (as Irwin). The boys are played by Owain Arthur (Timms), Ben Barnes (Dakin), Philip Correia (Rudge), Marc Elliott (Akthar), Thomas Morrison (Scripps), Akemnji Ndifornyen (Crowther), David Poynor (Lockwood) and Steven Webb (Posner).
While first night critics praised the current strong ensemble, many missed the play’s original cast, who, they said, are “indelibly” associated with the roles following the extended National Theatre runs, international tour, Broadway run and film. However, they all enjoyed anew the banter, emotional tugs and intellectual tussles in Bennett’s comedy drama, and some even preferred seeing the play in its new proscenium arch home in the West End.
- by Caroline Ansdell