Review: ‘The History Boys’

As thought-provoking as it is hilarious, Alan Bennett’s critically acclaimed modern classic ‘The History Boys’ has come to Kingston’s Rose Theatre for one week only.

Many will have seen the film that followed the original staging of the play and felt an empathy with the teenagers on their path to university as they do their best to avoid the distractions of sex, sports and cinema. 

This revival stamps its own mark on the play, making great use of music, song, and what is evidently a highly talented cast.

The character of Mrs Linott, the boys’ history teacher, is brilliantly under-played by Penelope Beaumont and as the lone female of the play she is well-matched with her well-cast fellow actors.

George Banks and Rob Delaney take on the central roles of Dakin and Posner respectively, transporting the audience into the world of adolescent naivety and ambition.

On their transition from school into the wider world, they and their fellow Oxbridge candidates, all of whom are utterly convincing in their roles, contemplate life with equal measure of boyish humour and brutal honesty.

A highlight of the performance is the French scene which makes great use of slapstick and is performed with impressive speed, wit and sincerity.

Equally memorable are the songs, most of which are performed with a disarming innocence by Delaney, but arguably the most poignant are those performed by the boys in an act of solidarity.

Education is central to the play, which sees two very different teachers contend to have the greatest influence on their pupils. The controversial teachings of Hector are wonderfully performed by Philip Franks, who is perfectly matched by Ben Lambert’s sophisticated performance as new teacher Irwin.

Although an undeniable success, the play runs the risk of losing the audience as it speeds through complex passages in which literary and cultural references abound. That said, the laugh-out-loud humour coupled with the play’s pathos ensures it will be well-received by the audience.

As a spectacular interpretation of one of the greatest plays of the decade, ‘The History Boys’ offers a truly great night out at the theatre.

The play runs at the Rose Theatre until Saturday February 5. For more information visit the theatre’s website or telephone the box office Box office: 0871 230 1552

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