Monday, 9 October 2017

“The History Boys” by Alan Bennett
Nottingham Lace Market Theatre
First of all let me say that the whole run of this production was sold out before the show opened which indicates the quality of the play, the writing and the cast. All of these three I completely back.
The play is one that I have seen on several occasions and is one of those stories that you just don’t tire off. This is due to the wonderfully rich writing of Alan Bennett and a story that never really ages, even though it’s set in the 1980’s.It’s issues are relative in any decade you set it, including today, so you can never tire of excellently observed pieces of literature, something that writers such as Bennett and Godber excel at.
The writing is well balanced with as much humour as there is pathos and inner pain. It takes you through the end of school pressures for those final exams as they try to get their places at Oxford and Cambridge and meanders through the personal lives and situations of the boys involved.
But it’s not just the boys’ lives we have insights to, as the teachers are just as important and as fascinating with the battle, almost for teaching supremacy between Hector and Irwin.
Making her directorial debut is Immi Lea, who also doubled as the designer for the set. I think we can safely say that this is big success for Immi. The set taking me back to my school days and subtly split into a separate area for the headteacher's office area.
Playing Hector is Piotr Wisniewski, who we don’t see on stage as much as we should. Reminding me a bit of Gyles Brandreth in looks, this is a wonderful portrayal of Hector. I've seen this play on several occasions and every actor seems to bring a different quality to Hector. Piotr is no exception; he made this role his own.
James Hallam (Irwin) brings out the passion of the latest rookie teacher who ends up in a wheelchair. There are several skins with Irwin and we see just a few unpeeled to reveal his life outside school.
Richard Fife (The Headmaster) reminds me of a headteacher I once had, authoritative but quite laid back.
Vicky Elizaga (Mrs Lintott) makes her Lace Market Theatre debut, and what an addition to the fold. A lovely relaxed and controlled performance and I hope that Vicky sticks around for more plays.
Lewis Fernandez is perfectly cast as the good looking, self assured and cocky protagonist Dakin. Sexually confident and knows how to pull the strings of some of his fellow pupils.He's aware of Posner's attraction to him and keeps him hanging there.
Daniel Salmon, again perfectly cast as Posner, the young Jewish boy infatuated with and madly in love with Dakin. His adoration for his fellow pupil is reflected in the puppy eyes he flashes at Dakin and his flirtatious singing of "I'll sing to him, each spring to him
And worship the trousers that cling to him" from "Bewitched".
Joe Kinch (Scripps) is another Lace Market Theatre first timer and had the dual role of playing the most religious boy in the class as well as being the narrator for the play. Along with everyone else, his relaxed performance leaves you warmed to him, and his character so easily.
Rahil Ghazani (Akthar), Normally one of the characters who you may not remember in the play, but this group work so naturally with each other that Akthar's character is remembered as the Muslim student and isn't relegated to the back desks of the classroom.
Jack Harriman (Crowther) also a newcomer to the Lace Market Theatre family. The character is into acting but went on to become a magistrate. Hopefully Jack won't take the same route as his character!
Jorden Myrie (Lockwood), has already clocked up an impressive CV of work, having been trained at the BAFTA Award winning Television Workshop in Nottingham. Again this character isn't one that automatically stuck out by Jorden made sure that Lockwood wasn't at the back of the class.
Chris Collins (Rudge), in the latest of a long string of characters Chris has played over the years. Chris has really got behind this character. There's a danger of portraying Rudge as a bit of an idiot, but Chris has pitched Rudge right where he should be; not the sharpest knife in the box but he has hidden talents which work for the character to get him what he wants and where he needs to be for his own ends.
Adam Goodchild (Timms), plays the main joker in the pack. Comedy works well for Adam, he looked like he was having fun on stage, as did all the "lads". Adam's cheeky fresh face, as well as his acting talents, is obviously why he was a natural choice for this role.
This is a cast that has been put together from all different and varied experiences and backgrounds and has blended together to make a really smooth and comfortable to watch cast. They could have been at school together and could have been the best of mates, This cast made me believe this, and the chemistry is great to behold.
It's not a rare thing of late to see a cast that work together as good as this cast do because local theatre has that magic. When the Director and Casting team work their magic with a talented cast, it's not only good to see, it's very exciting for the audience.
It's no secret that i love the rawness of Northern playwrights and this play is right up there as one of my favourites. When you see such a marvellous cast that perform with great chemistry and love for what they do, it's quite emotional. I had no hesitation in rising to my feet at the end to show my appreciation for a unifying talent that graced the stage.
“The History Boys” will reach it’s end of term at The Lace Market Theatre on Saturday 14 October 2017 but by the looks of it you may need to check before hand for any returned tickets by absentees, because as I said the website shows that this week is completely sold out. I just hope that any absentees have letters to explain why they have missed this lesson in class theatre.

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