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Some things in life never change, as Theatre by the Lake’s latest production shows writes Karen Morley-Chesworth. School life never changes despite all the league tables and examination boards and Alan Bennett can’t fail to give you an amazing experience as he takes you into his amazing world of words.
The History Boys is set in a 1980s classroom with a great cast of pupil and teacher characters. The young actors bring each individual student’s story to life, and across three generations in our theatre party we felt right back at home in the classroom be it 1950s, 1980 or present day.
The Headmaster’s obsession with getting his school the prize of old boys at Oxbridge is played up to caricature level by Robert Pickavance. His disregard for education in its purest form and needs of his students over the desire to gain good league table results will amuse and hit a chord with many teachers in the audience.
Meanwhile English teacher Hector cares only for his boys and learning for the benefit of the individual fights the push to make Oxbridge the ultimate goal at the sacrifice of human understanding. Peter Ryland, who previously at Theatre by the Lake played Alan Bennett, fills the auditorium with the warms and caring of his character. You can hear Bennett in his voice, the soft gentle Yorkshire tones that deliver hard punching reality.
When Irwin is brought in to groom the boys for their entrance exams he appears to be the polar opposite of Hector. Kieran Buckeridge plays Irwin to perfection. You could imagine him taking his place on the Jesus College team for University Challenge.
But this play scratches at the surface of appearance to get to the emotions of learning and growing as adolescents and adults.
Maria Gough as Mrs Lintott – Totty to the boys, provides the balance between the testosterone filled class and staff rooms. Maria Gough is your old school teacher, firm but fair even in the face of indefensible situations. She has the presence of a teacher who has well trodden the classroom parquet.
The History Boys is a brilliant piece of writing, and in the hands of such a well cast team amazing. With such young talent in the theatre as the boys from this production, we are well assured great performances to come for another generation.
The History boys by Alan Bennett runs until April 21 at Theatre by the Lake.