The Tab Reviews: The History Boys
Castle Theatre Company’s adaptation of the infamous British realist play by Alan Bennet.
Bennett’s masterful reputation precedes itself in the literary and theatrical spheres but also, through Hytner’s cinematic projection of the controversially ‘touching’ tale of the Sheffield school boys, it has reached millions more fans.
With such large shoes to fill Anna Haines wisely chose to adhere to the scripted artform religiously and produced a stunning naturalistic adaptation. We must also appreciate her spatial restrictions which, I confess, I was concerned for prior to the show; however, staging was expertly considered and particularly effective in Posner’s coming out scene.
Alex Marshall, whose characterisation of the sensitive Posner was played as flawlessly sincere and empathy-provoking, portrayed moving confessions aided by the lighting and clever staging. Set dramatically downstage from Lindon’s Irwin and Hanson’s Lintott induced a feeling of exclusion from their natural interaction which was profound.
The technical team lead by Mazhar Shah must be commended for their minimalistic illuminative control of the set throughout. This not only allowed for the realistic classroom glare but contrasted to the dramatic slow dimming which elevated the compelling and utterly riveting delivery of Hector’s final speech, a clever and calculated conclusion.
Hector, a complex and contentious character was encapsulated with a degree of professionalism the entire audience were moved and awed by. A consensus of appreciative murmurs concerning Owen Sparkes’ outstanding performance enveloped the intimate theatre during the interval and after the play, deservedly so. Sparkes inspired a dynamic agency in all the boys through his ingenuis projection of earnest unrelentingly impassioned urgency.
The cast of school boys asserted the unifying laddish facade excellently which was successfully epitomised by Broadhead’s Timms and Tarling’s Rudge. James Corden and Russell Tovey would be proud. The boys farcical and sarcastic humour was streaked by peaks of hilarious charade portrayed by Billingham and Broadhead as well as the religious debates between Daekin and Scripps, their fluid and symbiotic relationship played exquisitely by South and Skan.
Skan captured the classic honesty and causal innocence of Scripps whilst also being the most experimental actor, introducing a layer of optimism and compassion significantly unique to his portrayal of the character.
The fifth star was significantly tempting for History Boys and I believe the minimal amount of fine tuning needed to accomplish the accuracy and fluidity that it has so much potential for could be executed by the final show. A triumph.