Alan Bennett’s iconic production The History Boys has been revived at the Wolverhampton Grand Theatre in a brand new production that feels young, fresh and of superb quality.
The 2004 play is set in the 80s in a boys school in Sheffield. It’s a simple yet remarkably crafted production that tells the story of a group of clever young lads who are aspiring to get into Oxford and Cambridge. The youngsters all have distinct personalities and the classroom is filled with so many interesting conversations to create a incredibly compelling play about education, growing up and self-discovery. The interactions between the lads and their teachers provide insightful yet incredibly entertaining storytelling.
This production captures the play in a simple but brilliant way. With a young cast of lads that are all first-rate actors, their performances so intricately natural. Their characterisation is genuine and the play flows in an engaging way that draws the audience into the story.
When the class’ teacher Mr Hector isn’t quite cutting it, the ambitious Headmaster brings in a new teacher fresh from university called Irwin. This causes tension not only between the teachers but the students have to adapt to the different learning styles. Ian Redford plays Mr Hector – a free spirit who believes “exams are the enemy of education”.
Despite his teaching style being a little ad hoc, his creativity allows the information to seep into the youngster’s minds without them even realising. Whereas Irwin puts a lot of pressure on the students to think outside the box in order to pass their exams and secure their places at university. The teachers are encouraged by the Headteacher, played by Jeffrey Holland, whose temperament towards both teachers is fantastically funny.
Throughout all the examinations, learning and debates, what is so excellent about this production is the banter between the boys and watching them grow up. The cast are immensely talented, particularly Frazer Hadfield that plays Scripps, his natural stage presence and leadership amongst the boys is triumphant. Jordan Scowen plays the confident Dakin charismatically and Thomas Grant is hilarious as Posner.
You can’t fault any element of this play as it is executed so brilliantly. Director Jack Ryder creates a fluid production that encapsulates the audience. The use of video production to seamlessly transition the scenes is clever as it adds another layer to the show.
The History Boys is a piece of theatre that everybody needs to tick off their theatre bucket list and Wolverhampton Grand’s production boasts the high-quality that Alan Bennett’s play deserves. It’s simply unmissable.
On at Wolverhampton Grand Theatre until the 22nd of February, tickets and information can be found on their website.