Tuesday, February 25

The History Boys

- July 26, 2018

This is a good play, a great play even – and as such it requires a great cast and intelligent direction. Katy Markey at Apollo Productions has achieved both. Here she is once again working with a cast of talented young, and a few not so young actors, to deliver a very moving and very convincing performance of Alan Bennett’s tale of the role of education in the development of young minds, of sexual awakening and of course the power of sexual attraction. Ms Markey has also intelligently updated the time to accommodate songs that are contemporary to now and work well in beautifully performed arrangements, although there are a few elements of the story that do not ring as true in a contemporary setting, certainly that of there being no female historians on TV!

But the most important element of this play is finding a group of young men who can convincingly portray the angst and joy of late adolescence. This she has done with a group of young men who can more than live up to those iconic performances that the original production harvested and later transferred to film.

Ernest Stroud is charismatic in the role of Dakin, the object of sexual desire for at least three generations, Posner, Irwin and of course Hector. He carries the role well with a confidence in his power of attraction and how he can use it, but also a vulnerability. Ollie Wray as Rudge gives a measured performance as the underdog when it comes to intellectual prowess, assured in every sense and he delightfully delivers the pay off that academia is his to use in his own way.

Roman Hayek-Green is equally good in the role of Scripps and Louis Craig, Katrina Thomas-Shell and Frankie Davison give great performances as the teachers. Perhaps the hardest thing for any actor to do is to step into a role that has become iconically attached to another actor and this is no doubt true of the role of Hector, the passionate school master at the centre of the play, but David Abbot certainly manages to make the role convincingly his own – from the exuberant moments of humour to the moments of sadness and then anger.

But the highest praise must go to Paddy Hall who plays the part of Posner. Posner is the thoughtful one, and the most troubled, struggling with what he wants from life and dealing openly with his homosexuality – this is not a story of closeted sexuality. Hall has a sadness deep in his eyes, a fragility that is tangible and in addition the ability to deliver the songs with gentle meaning and a delicate power that make one realise why the songs are actually there in the first place.

If I had one complaint it would be that in an otherwise fine setting of atmospheric black and white film footage of the boys and colour footage of the abbey, the other projected backdrops were too large and the texts too distracting.

Otherwise this is yet another fine offering from Apollo Productions.

25 July

Old Court Room

Andrew Kay

Rating: ★★★★½

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