It is very easy to underappreciate the literary opportunity the English language can present, but even with the most rigorous exploration, one would still run out of superlatives to describe Alan Bennett‘s multi-award winning production The History Boys.
Set in the early 1980s, and spearheaded by the singing, dancing, energetic Steven Roberts (as Posner) the play follows eight hedonistic history pupils, as they embark on a journey through poetry, friendship, and the subtleties of sexual analysis.
Preparing for the Oxford and Cambridge entrance examinations under the guidance of very contrasting teaching methods – Hector, an eccentric teacher, delights in knowledge for its own sake, and Irwin, hired to introduce a rather more cynical and ruthless style of teaching – the students are left ambiguous about which approach is the more auspicious. However, after Hector is discovered sexually fondling a boy and later Irwin’s latent homosexual inclinations emerge, it becomes evident that the apparent divide between teacher and pupil no longer exists, and embracing one’s individuality is the key to success.
Bennett’s brilliant use of colloquialism, euphemism, and metaphor is perfectly delivered in a hilarious, snappy, and entertaining manner. The way the cast embrace and enjoy the witticisms and derogatory satire is a joy to behold. As the story evolves, such is the effect of the experience one almost forgets that the auditorium isn’t in fact a classroom, and that the audience themselves aren’t actually preparing for their entrance exams into Oxford and Cambridge.
With an overwhelming array of talent, magical writing, and a stage setting that augments the experience as a whole, this timeless, masterfully-constructed creation, presented by Sell A Door Theatre Company, ticks all the theatrical boxes.