The History Boys, directed by NT artistic director Nicholas Hytner, received its world premiere on 18 May 2004 (previews from 8 May) at the NT Lyttelton where, after extensions, it continued until 26 April 2005. In September, the play, redirected by Simon Cox with a new cast led by Desmond Barrit as Hector, returned for a week before embarking on an eight-week tour, after which it returned again this month, reopening on 2 December, for 52 performances only.
Barrit will be replaced by Richard Griffiths – who finishes his West End run in Heroes on 14 January - for the last eight performances (from 23 January to 1 February 2006), when Stephen Campbell Moore (as ambitious young teacher Irwin) and the original boys, including Dominic Cooper and double Whatsonstage.com Award winner Samuel Barnett, will also return along with newcomers Malcolm Sinclair as the headmaster and Maggie Steed as fellow teacher Mrs Lintott. For the final four UK performances (30 January to 1 February), the entire original cast will be reunited when Clive Merrison and Frances de la Tour reprise their roles as the headmaster and Mrs Lintott.
Following the National, the production will embark on an international tour to Hong Kong (14 to 18 February), New Zealand (24 to 28 February) and Australia (4 March to 8 April), culminating with 20 weeks at Broadway’s Broadhurst Theatre (See News, 27 Jul 2005).
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.
Amongst The History Boys’ shedload of awards to date are: Best Play at the Evening Standard and Critics’ Circle Awards, Best New Play at the Olivier Awards and Best New Comedy at the Whatsonstage.com Theatregoers’ Choice Awards. In addition, Griffiths won the Best Actor prizes at the Evening Standard, Critics’ Circle and Oliviers; Barnett won both the Best London Newcomer and Best Supporting Actor in the Whatsonstage.com Awards (See News, 15 Feb 2005); and Hytner won the Olivier for Best Director.
- by Terri Paddock