Review-History Boys

Carrying the epithet ‘The Nation’s Favourite’ – whether it be a play, poem or person – immediately places an added pressure of expectation on performers’ shoulders.

Last night at the Brewhouse the cast of The History Boys made light of this burden and turned in some tremendous performances that fully did justice to Alan Bennett’s piece and to their acting skills.

Set in a Sheffield grammar school the play deals with a group of sixth formers and their teachers as the boys prepare to sit the entrance exam to Oxford and Cambridge. The play contains strong language and adult themes.

The majority of the action takes place in the classroom with some added filmed scenes, shot by Geoff Thompson, that help move the story through time.

Once again the Little Theatre Company showed that no matter what artistic director John Bowness asks of them they are able to not only rise to the challenge but to bring out performances that will remain in the memory.

The on stage cast of twelve – four teachers and eight pupils – work well to put flesh on the bones of Bennett’s characters and the end result is a fast-paced roller coaster ride through a few months in their lives.

The ‘grown-ups’ – Carol Brown, the only female on stage, Matt Bancroft and Leon Ratcliffe are led superbly by Peter Clemson as Hector, an eccentric teacher who loves knowledge as an end rather than the means to an end.

The ‘schoolboys’ – Alex Gill, Richard Stonier, James Clarke, Tom Kounnas, Tommy Loftus, Daniel Tunks, Tim Robinson and Jack Hawkins – create the sort of ‘gang’ mentality seen in groups of testosterone-fuelled boys who have gone through school together brilliantly well.

Although at times there was much happening on stage none of it distracted from the main action.  A wonderful piece of ensemble work by a cast whose pleasure at being on stage together shone through.

Tickets for Little Theatre Company’s production of The History Boys, are available from the Brewhouse box office on 01283 508100. The show is on at 7.30pm every night until Saturday with a matinee on Saturday afternoon at 2.30pm.

 - Bill Pritchard

 

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