THE HISTORY BOYS
Joseph Rowntree Theatre, York
Alan Bennett's The History Boys has had a powerful effect on audiences ever since its premiere at the National Theatre in 2004 – so much so it was named "the nation's favourite play".
The story of eight Sheffield schoolboys being groomed for Oxbridge in the 1980s weaved its magic again in a Pick Me Up production at the Joseph Rowntree Theatre in York that was part of a school-themed season alongside Willy Russell's musical version of Our Day Out.
Reviewer Charles Hutchinson, writing in the York Press, desribed the casting as "eye-catching".
Ian Small played eccentric English teacher Hector, who teaches the boys poetry he hopes will prepare them for "the long littleness of life".
BBC Radio York presenter Adam Tomlinson (musical director of Pick Me Up's Peter Pan The Musical) was the league-table-obsessed Headmaster who is not willing to leave them in Hector’s hands alone and employs a younger teacher to coach the boys – Mr Irwin, played by fellow BBC presenter Neil Foster. Barbara Johnson was the much-put-upon history teacher Mrs Lintott.
The eight boys who soak up the words of Wittgenstein, Auden and Houseman – as well as the "sheer calculated silliness" of the likes of Brief Encounter and Gracie Fields – were Sam Baxter (who appeared in Bennett's Enjoy at the West Yorkshire Playhouse last year), George Stagnell, Sam Hird, Joe Hudson, Will Campbell-Burrell, Riley Anderson, Lee West and Daniel McGuinness.
In the moving final scene of the play the boys hear the voice of Hector telling them the game he wanted them to learn was pass the parcel – to "pass it on".
And during rehearsals Samuel Barnett – the original Posner in the National Theatre production and in the film of The History Boys – was able to "pass it on" to Pick Me Up's Posner Sam Baxter.
Samuel Barnett, speaking to his successor on Adam Tomlinson's radio show, said the key into the character of Posner for him was unrequited love. "No matter who you are, everybody has experienced unrequited love. I was really young when I played the role but I used what little experience I had of life." Read more about what he had to say here.
Robert Readman's production used the 80s electronic sounds of Sheffield band Cabaret Voltaire to punctuate the scenes and musical director Will Campbell-Burrell, playing Akthar, took to the piano throughout the play to accompany songs including Bewitched, Bothered and Bewildered, Sing As We Go and Bye Bye Blackbird.
February 20-28 2015
Musical direction by
Adam Moore TECH247