Many people may well go having watched the original theatre production back in 2004, or perhaps the film version from 2006. Personally I came to the play with only a fleeting idea of the plot, characters and what I was about to witness.
Initially, I thought the staging was quite simple, obviously a classroom, but as the play developed we were taken around a school - classrooms, offices, staff rooms - and beyond with quick and fluid scene changes, completed by the cast whilst the action continued unabated, which was very effective. The main cast consisted of a group of eight 'boys' along with 3 of the teaching staff within their school and the headmaster.
Of the 'boys', there were three that stood out as the main protagonists, Alex Hope as Scripps, Steven Roberts as Posner and Kedar Williams-Stirling as Dakin.
Throughout the play, the character of Scripps had many monologues delivered straight out to the audience and Alex Hope was able to draw the audience in and hold them captive during these. They were delivered with precision, clarity and - when needed - immense feeling and emotion.
Although hard to believe, due to his obvious talent, this was the professional stage debut of Steven Roberts. He gave such believability and emotionality in his portrayal of Posner, for me at least, he was the most captivating to watch. Whether showing the emotional and vulnerable side of the character or the fun loving side, he held me captivated. His singing was particularly spell binding, his beautiful voice which was at times innocent and carefree and at others tinged with such sadness it was almost palpable, which made me smile and sent shivers up and down my spine.
Kedar Williams-Stirling played the role of the cocky and self-assured Dakin with such swagger, it was easy to believe that he thought himself to God's gift to woman (and man) kind, essential when playing the role.
The other 'boys' all played their roles expertly, not once did I not believe in their obvious individual characters.
I can go no further without mentioning what I call 'The French Scene' - a scene played out in French in its entirety. To those who could understand French, I am sure there must've been more than what I, as someone with only a smattering of French, picked up on. However I have to give full credit to the entire cast involved in that scene, because even though I could not follow the dialogue, the acting and reacting kept me enthralled and entertained throughout.
I also have to mention the many mini-scenes throughout the play where some of the 'boys' acted out scenes from films for their teacher to guess. The energy, control of voice and accent by all the 'boys' was amazing - a favourite of mine being the Brief Encounter scene.
The teaching staff within the play, were also all played expertly and as someone who has worked in education, I can say they were very much believable.
Christopher Ettridge as the league table obsessed headmaster was very reminiscent of the many head teachers I have known. Susan Twist played the almost down trodden Mrs Lintott with great sympathy, her unassuming manner falling away quickly when she told the other members of staff what she really thought. Which leaves Richard Hope as Hector and Mark Field as Irwin, two of the hardest characters to portray within the play in my view.
Hector has to remain likeable, even after finding out about his indiscretions on the motor bike, and Richard managed to do this well. We laughed with him and felt for him as he broke down in tears. Mark Field's Irwin was a pleasure to watch. To see the character loosen up within the play, juxtaposed with the anger seen in the flash forwards and not see the different sides of his character blur was impressive.
I was glad I was convinced to see The History Boys and even though I went with people who had read, studied and/or seen the play before I did not feel as if I was disadvantaged. The current cast in my view, and of those who I was with who had seen previous versions, did an amazing job.
Hector states within the play that "the best moments of reading are when you come across something - a thought, a feeling, a way of looking at things - that you thought special, particular to you. And here it is, set down by someone else, a person you've never met, maybe someone long dead. And its as if a hand has come out and taken yours.".
This I believe is true of plays as well.
This production is full of every possible human emotion, love, lust, anger, hate, joy, a feeling of hopelessness and so much more.
If you live in one of the 19 towns or cities that the current tour is going to and are interested in having a thoroughly entertaining evening out, I say book now to see The History Boys.
The History Boys tour is going to Coventry, Brighton, Hull (Oh, Larkin!), Birmingham, Winchester, Windsor, Edinburgh, Ipswich, Cheltenham, Blackpool, Portsmouth, Bromley, Crewe, Derry, Buxton, Exeter, Swindon, York and Darlington.