The History Boys (15)

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The ViewLondon Review

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Review byMatthew Turner11/10/2006

Four out of Five stars
Running time: 112 mins

Enjoyable, sharply written drama, adapted from the National Theatre production by director Nicholas Hytner and writer Alan Bennett.

What's it all about?
Impressively adapted from the National Theatre production, The History Boys reunites the entire cast with the stage production's writer (Alan Bennett) and director (Nicholas Hytner). Set in 1983, the story follows a group of eight fiercely intelligent students at a boys' grammar school in Yorkshire, as they prepare for their Oxbridge entrance exams.

The headmaster (Clive Merrison) is so keen for the boys to do well that he hires fresh-faced Oxford graduate Irwin (Stephen Campbell Moore) to whip them into shape. As a result, the boys find their loyalties torn between Irwin and their eccentric, poetry-spouting English teacher Hector (Richard Griffiths), whose wandering hands are regarded as both harmless and amusing.

The Good
The entire cast are superb – the fact that the boys played the same roles on stage pays off brilliantly because they act like they've been friends all their lives, to the point where even their occasionally wordy banter sounds relaxed and natural.

There's strong support from both Merrison (hilarious) and Frances De La Tour as the boys' History teacher. However, the acting honours are comprehensively stolen by Griffiths, who manages to make Hector both inspirational and yet rather sad and pathetic at the same time.

Hytner has done an excellent job of opening out the play and we get a real feel for both the school and the surrounding area, thanks to Andrew Dunn's bright and sunny cinematography. There's also an evocative soundtrack packed with 1980s hits, which adds considerably to the sense of both time and place.

The Great
Bennett's script is lively, intelligent and extremely thought-provoking, especially on the nature of education and different teaching methods. However, there's a bizarre and slightly jarring coda at the end that should probably have been rewritten or left out.

Worth seeing?
An engaging, thoughtful and impressively acted drama. Recommended.

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Content updated: 11/12/2017 21:05

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