Wednesday, 17 March 2010

The History Boys -National Tour 2010 (Cambridge Arts Theatre)

The distinct lack of handsomes in this production of The History Boys does not take anything away from the experience of seeing this let's face it "cult-play", in fact the casting of such ordinary looking boys (though all very talented actors!) helped me remember why it is one of my favourites. It's Alan Bennett's writing I have gone to see not the jail-bait boys.
Before I saw the film version of The History Boys I had read the play after Anna saw one of the National Theatre's tours (Doctor Who was Lockwood and Prince Caspian Dakin) and forced me to read it. And I had listened to the BBC radio dramatization, so I enjoyed it, no I loved it, before I even saw those handsome lads in that movie (Jamie Parker as Scripps is my History Boy of choice- it's his arms, piano playing and brilliant voice).
Tonight we saw in St Patrick's Day with spoonfuls of cough syrup and a trip to the theatre. I was really looking forward to seeing it after seeing/hearing/reading it in all other formats! And I was not disappointed. I loved it.
The boys were all brilliant and did great things with the wonderful lines that were shared out between them. Because they all looked so normal it was so much more believable that they were all bright and suffering from such ordinary problems, Dakin was I thought more believable as a sixth-form boy who thought he was wonderful -when he obviously wasn't! He was a bit pudgy, not a sleazy Dominic Cooper type, but an actual cocky twat! That's what those sort of boys are like!! Posner was perfect, he was little! Not just a boyish looking face like cute Sam Barnett, actually smaller than the others and what a voice, he handled the songs beautifully! Well done James Byng! A lovely lead!
I read a review from a Cambridge woman saying that they weren't characters you could connect with, this is total crap! I was never a gay boy at a boy's school in the 80s, but I get it! I get being an outsider! Who are you if you don't understand every one of those boys!? Who are your boring privileged robotic friends if you don't know Posners, Scripps or Dakins?!
The design was great, nice and simple and the in-between music reminded us it was the 80s when normal hairstyles failed. The "adult" cast were fantastic, nice caricature Headmaster straight from the Beano, Totty- the only woman- was really good, what a good part that is! Hector nice imitation but not much else you can really do with that role! And Irwin rather creepy and pathetic. Liked it all.
I was however painfully aware that I was seeing this play in Cambridge rather than at the West Yorkshire Playhouse. I saw Alan Bennett about a month ago at Kings Cross Station, he got on the Leeds train, he was obviously going up to see how the boys were getting on. I imagine the production got the laughs in the right places- the places Alan intended them- in the WYP. In Cambridge the bits that got the most laughs were all the digs at other universities. I know I'm paranoid but I felt sure they were not laughing at the jokes but instead the idea of having to go to a "shit university".

1 comment:

  1. Hi Amy
    Just seen The History Boys in Brighton. Was rather disappointed. The fundamental weakness is the guy playing Hector. I found I couldn't warm to him at all and he just comes across as someone spouting his lines in a rather theatrical way. I agree: Totty was very good and the Headmaster (although a bit of a caricature was good value). And and the boys were excellent, particularly Posner, Timms and Scripps.