The History Boys

by Alan Bennett; dir Steve Smith
Loft Theatre, Leamington Spa
24 October – 3 November 2012

The History Boys is arguably one of Alan Bennett’s funniest and most thought-provoking plays.  It tells the story of a class of sixth-formers studying history and trying to get into Oxbridge.  The headmaster employs a young Oxbridge-educated teacher in an attempt to improve their chances but he has an approach to education they’ve never seen before.

If you know Bennett you know to expect impeccable writing and impossible wit, with a real originality that gives sheer delight to an audience, and The Loft Theatre’s production of this exquisite play is an absolute joy to watch.

Fast-paced with excellent ensemble performances from the young actors playing the boys, there was not a weak link in sight.  Those brilliant lines were delivered with a real purpose and understanding, and characters clearly defined.  If I were their teacher, I would of course not have a favourite but if I did, Posner played by Peter Borsada would be it, playing his part with honest emotion and superb comic timing.

Of the teachers, Sue Moore’s Mrs Lintott is a wry and watchful presence who in my opinion not only had some of the best lines but delivered every one of them with utter class you couldn’t help but nod your head in respect to her every time she came on stage. Howard Scott Walker’s Headmaster was another delight, a comic performance that evoked memories of those fine actors in Carry On films and such like.

Phil Reynolds as inspirational teacher Hector gives a superb performance as does his adversary in the play, Peter Gillam as Irwin.  Both actors offer real integrity to their parts that are full of contradictions but manage to evoke sympathy from the audience even though most parents would despise them.

The History Boys is a spirited production bringing to life the emotional heart of Bennett’s witty play.  I’m sure there were faults with it, and I’m not saying it was perfect but it was certainly close to it.

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