The History Boys, The Kings, Review
It is a mystery to me how anybody can reflect fondly on their time at school. Personally, I hated it. I hated sitting in cold classrooms with thirty young adults who were all being made to dress the same and think the same by teachers who were as confused about what they were teaching as we were. Perhaps somebody like Hector from Alan Bennett’s The History Boys was what we needed? An unconventional, passionate, completely loopy fountain of enlightenment.
The History Boys follows a bright group of sixth form boys in a North England school during the 1980’s as they fight to gain places at the notorious universities of Oxford and Cambridge.
Despite the excellent teachings of Hector and Mrs Lintott, the headmaster is not happy. In an attempt to polish the intellectual minds of the pupils and to increase the chance of them passing their exams, young teacher, Mr Irwin, is brought in. Hector’s view of knowledge for its own sake clashes with Irwin’s cynical and ruthless style, leaving the boys unsure of what to think and what not to think.
It is not difficult to recognise why this is Bennett’s most commercially successful and celebrated piece of work. Lovable characters, nostalgic setting, sparkling dialogue, humour, drama. The History Boys has the lot. And this production captures it all in what has to be the most enjoyable evening I have had at the King’s Theatre in many a year.
The cast capture the wit and charm of their characters beautifully, warming our hearts within moments of the opening scene.
All are worthy of mention, but I have to give particular praise to James Byng who plays Posner, the gay History Boy. His movie impressions such as that from Brief Encounter are absolutely hilarious and his comic ability is evident throughout. On the other side, however, there is also a tortured and confused character in Posner, which Byng never loses sight of. A truly great performance.
The show hammers by at a terrific pace, but never leaves its audience behind. We are all right there with them until the bitter end, practically holding hands in collective prayer for our little heroes.
Even I was feeling a little nostalgic as I stepped out into the Edinburgh drizzle... ah, Mrs Rees. You were hot.
This is a show that can make your life feel better by its mere existence. Deliriously funny and wonderfully heart-warming. Top of the class. A+
Runs from Tuesday 6th – Saturday 10th April, 7.30pm