The History Boys

Called  “One of the finest plays Alan Bennett has ever written” by the Daily Telegraph, The History Boys opened at the National Theatre in 2004 to rave reviews and a sell-out run and went on to become one of their biggest ever hits, winning over 30 major awards including the Olivier and Tony Awards for Best New Play. In a recent national survey this comic masterpiece was voted the nation’s favourite play.

Set in the 1980s, The History Boys is the story of a group of bright, funny and unruly sixth-formers in pursuit of sex, sport and a place at university. Their maverick English teacher is at odds with the young and shrewd supply teacher, whilst their headmaster is obsessed with results and league tables. Staffroom rivalry and the anarchy of adolescence overflow, provoking insistent questions about history and how you teach it. Their A Levels may be over, but their true education is only just beginning.

This brand new production from the producers of Avenue Q UK Tour, Spring Awakening UK Tour and Seussical West End is an hilariously funny and exceptionally moving play about the true purpose of education. This national treasure has proved to be the perfect night at the theatre.

UK TOUR 2015

Click on the venue for ticket information

Palace Theatre, Southend  26 January 2015 – 31 January 2015  Book Tickets »

Belgrade Theatre, Coventry  3 February 2015 – 7 February 2015  Book Tickets »

New Theatre, Hull  16 February 2015 – 21 February 2015  Book Tickets »

New Alexandra Theatre, Birmingham  23 February 2015 – 28 February 2015  Book Tickets »

Theatre Royal, Winchester  2 March 2015 – 7 March 2015  Book Tickets »

Theatre Royal, Windsor  9 March 2015 – 14 March 2015  Book Tickets »

Kings Theatre, Edinburgh  17 March 2015 – 21 March 2015  Book Tickets »

The New Wolsey Theatre, Ipswich  23 March 2015 – 28 March 2015  Book Tickets »

The Grand, Blackpool  14 April 2015 – 18 April 2015  Book Tickets »

Kings Theatre, Portsmouth  22 April 2015 – 25 April 2015  Book Tickets »

Lyceum Theatre, Crewe  5 May 2015 – 9 May 2015  Book Tickets »

Millenium Forum, Derry  13 May 2015 – 16 May 2015  Book Tickets »

Northcott Theatre, Exeter  26 May 2015 – 30 May 2015  Book Tickets »

Wyvern Theatre, Swindon  1 June 2015 – 6 June 2015  Book Tickets »

Grand Opera House, York  8 June 2015 – 13 June 2015  Book Tickets »

Civic Theatre, Darlington  16 June 2015 – 20 June 2015  Book Tickets »

Yvonne Arnaud Theatre  22 June 2015 – 27 June 2015  Book Tickets »

Malvern Theatre, Worcestershire  29 June 2015 – 4 July 2015  Book Tickets »

Cambridge Arts Theatre, Cambridge  7 July 2015 – 11 July 2015  Book Tickets »

Cast

Alex Hope

Scripps

Christopher Ettridge

Headmaster

Chris Barritt

TV Director

Steven Roberts

Posner

Mark Field

Irwin

Richard Hope

Hector

Susan Twist

Mrs Lintott

Matthew Durkan

Crowther

Joshua Mayes-Cooper

Timms

Patrick McNamee

Lockwood

Sid Sagar

Akthar

Kedar Williams-Stirling

Dakin

David Young

Rudge

Melody Brown

Fiona

Creatives

Director Kate Saxon

Designer Libby Watson

Lighting Designer Christopher Davey

Sound Designer Matt Eaton

Musical Director Catherine Jayes

Associate Director Bronagh Lagan

Costume Supervisor Caroline Hannam

Company Voice Coach Annemette Verspeak

Voice Coach Terry Besson

Production Manager Lee Batty

Company Stage Manager Nick Bryan

Deputy Stage Manager Kala Simpson

Assistant Stage Manager Nikki Gooch

Production Electrician & Relighter David Phillips

Production Electrician & Relighter Robb Mookhoek

  Alex Hope

Alex Hope

Scripps

Alex graduated from the Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama last year. Alex recently played Phillip in First Episode at the Jermyn Street Theatre.

Theatre includes: First Episode (Jermyn Street Theatre), The Witness (Thrive Theatre), Riot Squat (Thrive Theatre)

Film/TV/Radio includes: August 1914 (BBC)

In Training includes: You Can’t Take It With You, Spring Awakening, Epsom Downs, Twelfth Night, Thebans, Tracy, A Chorus of Disapproval, The Lower Depths, Love’s Labours’ Lost

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  Christopher Ettridge

Christopher Ettridge

Headmaster

Film includes: Hitler: the Rise of Evil (Von Schleicher), Dog-Days, I Capture The Castle, Kevin and Perry, Esther Queen of Persia, Warburg (Hartley), The Chain (Sid Thomas)

Television includes: Julius Caesar (Appolonius), A is for Acid (Steven Rogers), Eastenders (Graham), Doctors, Worst Witch, Goodnight Sweetheart (PC Deadman), Bramwell, The Old Curiosity Shop, The Decent Thing, Harry, Hard Times, Casualty, Boot Street Band, Minder, Goodbye Columbus, The Bill, Love Hurts, Rag Doll, Death is Part of the Process, The Glory Boys, Anthony and Cleopatra

Theatre includes: Twelve Angry Men (Juror 11), Middlemarch (Brooke/Bulstrode), To Kill a Mockingbird (Mr Cunningham/Judge Taylor), Heather Gardner (Peregrine Brand), Medea (Carter), Bedroom Farce (Ernest), Cardenio/TheCityMadam/MaratSade (Duke/ Holdfast), Death of a Salesman (Uncle Ben), Heroes (Philippe), His Dark Materials (Lord Boreal), Hapgood (Paul Blair), The Grouch (Lord Arne), Travels with my Aunt The White Devil (Monticelso), Talking to Terrorists (Norman Tebbit), Democracy (Nollau), Dinner, Henry VI Parts I, II + III Richard III, The Rivals, Dreaming, About the Boy/Bluebird, One More Wasted Year, Stranger’s House, Serving it Up, Three Birds Alighting on a Field, Colquhoun and McBride, Some Singing Blood, Lady from the Sea, The Shape of the Table, The Man Who Had All the Luck, Twelfth Night, Midsummer Night’s Dream, Two Gentlemen of Verona, Bartholomew Fair, Trumpets and Raspberries, The Ice Chimney (One man show—Fringe First at Edinburgh), Cherry Orchard, The Strongest Man in the World

Radio includes: Number 10, Basil, Up The Khyber Path (all BBC Radio)

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  Chris Barritt

Chris Barritt

TV Director

Chris trained at LAMDA.

Theatre credits include: The Misanthrope (Comedy), Blue/Orange (Wimbledon) Otherwise Engaged (Criterion), The Birthday Party (Duchess), See You Next Tuesday (Albery), She Stoops To Conquer/A Laughing Matter (National Theatre), Feelgood (Garrick), The Lady In The Van (Queen’s), Dead Funny (Vaudeville), Arcadia (Haymarket), Run For Your Wife and Move Over Mrs Markham (Olympia Theatre, Dublin), Candida ( Gate Theatre, Dublin), Othello and Love’s Labours’ Lost (Regents Park Theatre), The Miser, A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Julius Caesar, The Importance Of Being Earnest, Zoo Story (Belfast). Basket Case, Maurice's Jubilee, The Dishwashers (National Tours).

Television and Radio include: Dream Team (Sky), Emmerdale (Yorkshire), Remington Steele (MTV), The Scar (Channel 4), Brien Friel Profile (BBC), Pravda, Night Falls On The City (Radio4), Zoo Story (Radio Ulster) and music video Promises with Nero.

Films include: A Wedding Most Strange, The Last Ten and Paranormal. 

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Kate Saxon

Director

Kate studied English Literature and Drama at Hull University and Acting at East 15 Drama School.

Theatre directing credits include: The Secret Garden (Grosvenor Park Open Air Theatre), The Real Thing (West Yorkshire Playhouse/English Touring Theatre), God of Carnage and The Years Between (Theatre Royal Northampton), Far From The Madding Crowd (English Touring Theatre), Chains of Dew (Orange Tree), Nine Parts of Desire (The Public, New York & The Wilma, Philadelphia – winner of 3 Barrymore awards in USA), The Unexpected Guest, and World Premiere of The French Lieutenant’s Woman (The Fulton Opera House, USA then British Premiere, national tour), Romeo and Juliet (Ludlow Castle/Exeter Northcott), Hysteria and Humble Boy (Exeter Northcott), Eva and Eve, Sniff and Where Light Through Yonder Window (Soho Theatre), Still/Life (Theatre Royal, Plymouth), La Bohème (Opera North), Adrenalin Heart (Arcola), Scratching The Façade (Birmingham Symphony Hall/Rep), The Secret Garden and Persuasion (Salisbury Playhouse), The Marriage of Figaro and Bubbles (The Watermill), Arturo Ui (Palace Theatre, Watford), Clearing The Colours and Caution Trousers (Stephen Joseph Theatre), Trust Byron (The Gate/Pleasance Edinburgh).

Kate was Associate Director of Shared Experience from 2000 - 2012.

Kate has developed new work and directed rehearsed readings for The Royal Court, The Bush, Arcola, Hampstead Theatre and The Public, New York.

Kate also directs performances for animation games. Titles include Alien:Isolation, BAFTA winning Fable II, Goldeneye 007, Witcher II and Castlevania: Lords of Shadow.

For television, Kate directs Eastenders.

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  Steven Roberts

Steven Roberts

Posner

After a career as a young performer while studying at Sylvia Young Theatre School, Steven trained at Arts Educational Schools London. 

On graduating in 2011 Steven was cast as the regular character of George Smith in Channel 4’s Hollyoaks, a role he played for three years.

The History Boys marks his professional stage debut.

Film/TV/Radio includes: Hollyoaks

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  Mark Field

Mark Field

Irwin

Theatre Credits Include: The Conquest of the South Pole (Rose Theatre Kingston & Arcola Director: Stephen Unwin), The Grapes of Wrath (Chichester Festival Theatre & ETT Director: Jonathan Church), An Inspector Calls (PW & NT International Director: Stephen Daldry), The Critic (Chichester Minerva Theatre Director: Sean Foley), Vincent River (West End & New York Director: Steve Marmion), Mad Funny Just (Theatre 503,) The Revenger’s Tragedy & Henry V (ORL), 24 Hour Plays (Old Vic Theatre) 

Film, Television and Radio Credits Include: Brideshead Revisited (Miramax), Lawn of the Dead (Curve Films), Model Planes (FFFilms), Jack Malchance (Instant Film), How Not to Live Your Life (BBC Television), Doctors (BBC) Doctor Who (BBC Radio)

Theatre and Film Directing Credits Include: August Osage County (Bancroft Theatre) Tartuffe (BSA) Model Planes (FFFilms) Are You OK (London Film Collective)

Mark has won the Alan Bates Award, the Old Vic New Voices Award and been nominated best actor at the Off West End Awards. He is also is a guest Tutor at RADA, Mountview, BSA and LAMDA. 

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Libby Watson

Designer

Libby trained at Bristol Old Vic Theatre School and has a 1st class BA Hons in Theatre Design from Wimbledon School of Art.

Recent design credits include:

Fences, Theatre Royal Bath, tour and West End, The Dead Dogs Print Room, Break the Floorboards, Watford Palace and Tour As You Like It, Ludlow and Stafford Shakespeare Festival, Rudy’s Rare Records, Birmingham Rep and Hackney Empire, Propoganda Swing Belgrade and Nottingham Playhouse, Frankie and Johnny, Chichester

Other design credits include:

Twelfth Night, Nottingham Playhouse, Kilworth One Monkey Don’t Stop No Show, Sheffield Crucible, Tricycle and tour Bus Stop,  A Fine Bright Day Today,  New Vic and Stephen Joseph The Miser, Marriage, Stars in the Morning Sky & Babylone, Belgrade Coventry Persuasion, Salisbury Playhouse. God of Carnage Northampton Mountaintop, Trafalgar Studios West End (Winner of 2011 Lawrence Olivier Award for Best Play) It’s A Wonderful Life, Blues in the Night, Guys and Dolls Wolsey and tour Romeo and Juliet, Midsummer Nights Dream, Stafford and Ludlow Festival, Blonde Bombshells of 1943, Hampstead theatre and 3 UK tours. Twelfth Night, Relatively Speaking, Three Men in a Boat, .He’s Much to Blame, Much Ado About Nothing, Dangerous Corner Bury St Edmunds Theatre Royal,  Far From the Madding Crowd ETT, Hello and Goodbye Trafalgar Studios West End, French Lieutenants Woman UK tour, Up Against the Wall Bolton Octagon,  Christ of Coldharbour Lane Soho, Macbeth Bristol Old Vic, Under their Influence, Blues for Mr Charlie, Gem of the Ocean, Radio Golf and The War Next Door, Tricycle, Crooked and I like Mine With a Kiss, Bush, The Wills’s Girls Tobacco Factory, Blest Be the Tie and What’s in the Cat Royal Court, Man of Mode and Hysteria Northcott Exeter,.Credits at Guildhall include: Twelve Angry Men, Corpus Christ, Monday After the Miracle, Othello, Merchant of Venice, Sisterly Feelings, August and Tonight at 8.30. Pirates of Penzance Kilworth Theatre. Over ten touring productions for the Watermill Theatre including I dreamt I dwelt in Marble Halls , The Comedian and The Story of a Great Lady. At Riverside Studios The Key Game and Deranged Marriage. As design associate at Theatre 503 Natural Selection, Peter and Vandy, and The Charming Man. As resident designer at Salisbury Playhouse, The Changeling, Beautiful Thing, Arabian Nights, Side By Side by Sondheim, Secret Garden and Tenant of Wildfell Hall.  For Stratford East Ready or Not, Night of the Dons, Cinderella, Jamaica House, Urban Afro Saxons, Sus, High Heeled Parrotfish, Funny Black Women and The Oddest Couple. For Birmingham Rep Hysteria and Respect and Eclipse Uk tour of Three Sisters and Angel House.

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Christopher Davey

Lighting Designer

Chris trained at Guildhall School of Music and Drama. He won the TMA Best Lighting Design for Dial M for Murder (West Yorkshire Playhouse) and Beyond the Horizon (Royal and Derngate, Northampton).

He has designed extensively for Shared Experience Theatre, Royal Court, Hampstead Theatre, Lyric Hammersmith, Royal Exchange Manchester, West Yorkshire Playhouse, Royal Lyceum Edinburgh, Citizens’s Theatre Glasgow, Birmingham Rep and Manchester International Festival.

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  Richard Hope

Richard Hope

Hector

Richard trained with the National Youth Theatre of Great Britain. He is an Associate Member of Complicite and has worked with many other theatre companies including the National, RSC, Shared Experience, Shakespeare's Globe and Jerome Savary’s ‘Le Grand Magic Circus’.

Recently he played Queen Elizabeth I in the UK premiere of 'Orlando' at Manchester Royal Exchange and he joined City of London Sinfonia for Mendelssohn’s ‘Midsummer Nights Dream’ and Shostakovich's ‘Hamlet’. In 2012 he was Horst Ehmke in 'Democracy’ (Sheffield and Old Vic London) and Albany in 'King Lear' (Almeida). Richard played Levin and was Associate Director for Shared Experience’s UK and World tours of ‘Anna Karenina'. He was Pierre in 'War and Peace' at the National Theatre London. He played Max Kellerman in the West End stage show of 'Dirty Dancing'. He was Ford Prefect in the first stage production of 'The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy' with the Science Fiction Theatre of Liverpool: He also appeared in their 24 hour epic 'The Warp'.

Richard has many TV and film credits including 'Brideshead Revisited', 'Poirot', 'Midsomer Murders', 'Foyle's War', 'Piece of Cake', 'The French Lieutenant's Woman' and 'Bellman and True'. He is Malohkeh, the Silurian, in ‘Dr Who’. Most recently he appeared in ‘The Lost Honour of Christopher Jefferies’ and he plays Harris Pascoe in the new tv series of ‘Poldark’. 

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Susan Twist

Mrs Lintott

Television/Film includes: Scott and Bailey, Being Eileen, In The Flesh, Doctors, See No Evil, The Royal, The Bill, Coronation Street, A Good Thief, Always and Everyone, Reckless, Time Treasures, Brookside (series regular)

Theatre includes: Hobson’s Choice, Abandoned Places, Ugly Duck, The Market, Ballroom Blitz, The Daughter In Law, Love on the Dole, A Streetcar Named Desire, Much Ado About Nothing, Hercules, And Did Those Feet, The Good Soul of Szechuan, Everybody Loves a Winner, Brassed Off, Touched, The Crucible, A Conversation, Pretend You Have Big Buildings, Heartbreak House, My Own Show, The Price, Cinderella, Summer Shorts, Miss Yesterday, Soap/Fields of Gold, Coming Around Again, Brighton Beach Memoirs, East is East, April in Paris, Beautiful Thing, Second from Last in The Sack Race, The Snow Queen

Radio and Voiceover includes: Many BBC Radio, J Walter Thompson & Biteback Productions

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  Susan Twist

Susan Twist

Mrs Lintott

Television/Film includes: Scott and Bailey, Being Eileen, In The Flesh, Doctors, See No Evil, The Royal, The Bill, Coronation Street, A Good Thief, Always and Everyone, Reckless, Time Treasures, Brookside (series regular)

Theatre includes: Hobson’s Choice, Abandoned Places, Ugly Duck, The Market, Ballroom Blitz, The Daughter In Law, Love on the Dole, A Streetcar Named Desire, Much Ado About Nothing, Hercules, And Did Those Feet, The Good Soul of Szechuan, Everybody Loves a Winner, Brassed Off, Touched, The Crucible, A Conversation, Pretend You Have Big Buildings, Heartbreak House, My Own Show, The Price, Cinderella, Summer Shorts, Miss Yesterday, Soap/Fields of Gold, Coming Around Again, Brighton Beach Memoirs, East is East, April in Paris, Beautiful Thing, Second from Last in The Sack Race, The Snow Queen

Radio and Voiceover includes: Many BBC Radio, J Walter Thompson & Biteback Productions

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Matt Eaton

Sound Designer

Matt is a sound designer and composer in theatre, film and television. He is an associate artist at Creation in Oxford.

Recent work includes: Ravens and Titus Andronicus (USF, Florida), Kethra (Venetian Biennale of Architecture), Wuthering Heights (YAT and UK tour), Break The Floorboards (Watford Palace Theatre), First Episode (Jermyn Street Theatre), Medea (Rose Theatre, Kingston), The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe (Creation). The Canterbury Tales, Macbeth, Richard III, Hamlet, Othello (GSC) Sound designer & musical arranger: Aladdin and his Magical Lamp, A Christmas Carol (Creation). Composer: Dracula (Scary Little Girls), Helen (actors of Dionysus), Shadow Shows (Edinburgh International Film Festival), Nosferatu (Warwick Arts Centre), The Cabinet of Doctor Caligari (Midlands Arts Centre).Film & TV include: The Gambler (BBC Radio 3), Volkswagen and British Telecom advertisements, Channel 4 Films, Horizon (BBC2), Hallam Foe (Channel 4 Films).

He releases music on the Domino Recordings label.

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Catherine Jayes

Musical Director

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Matthew Durkan

Crowther

Chartered Accountant turned Actor, Matthew makes his touring debut as Crowther in the cast of The History Boys. Matthew recently appeared in Housed at The Old Vic and Fragment at The North Wall, Oxford.

Before pursuing a career as an Actor, Matthew studied Mathematics at the University of Manchester and then went on to work for the accountancy firm Ernst & Young for three years.

Matthew is a keen musician. He has sung with the Hallé Choir on various occasions and spent three years playing guitar and gigging with the band, Romanov. Other passions include tennis and football and he has long been an avid Manchester United fan.

Theatre includes: Housed (The Old Vic), Fragment (The North Wall/Iron Shoes), The Cherry Orchard (PK Productions/New Wimbledon Studio), Painted Faces (Chaménos Collective/The Vaults), Doctor Selavy’s Magic Theatre (PK Productions/New Wimbledon Studio).

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  Matthew Durkan

Matthew Durkan

Crowther

Chartered Accountant turned Actor, Matthew makes his touring debut as Crowther in the cast of The History Boys. Matthew recently appeared in Housed at The Old Vic and Fragment at The North Wall, Oxford.

Before pursuing a career as an Actor, Matthew studied Mathematics at the University of Manchester and then went on to work for the accountancy firm Ernst & Young for three years.

Matthew is a keen musician. He has sung with the Hallé Choir on various occasions and spent three years playing guitar and gigging with the band, Romanov. Other passions include tennis and football and he has long been an avid Manchester United fan.

Theatre includes: Housed (The Old Vic), Fragment (The North Wall/Iron Shoes), The Cherry Orchard (PK Productions/New Wimbledon Studio), Painted Faces (Chaménos Collective/The Vaults), Doctor Selavy’s Magic Theatre (PK Productions/New Wimbledon Studio).

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Bronagh Lagan

Associate Director

Originally from Northern Ireland, Bronagh moved to Liverpool to study a BA in Drama at John Moores. She then went on to train as a physical theatre performer at Hope Street Ltd, this is where she developed her passion for directing. In 2006 She was elected Young Persons Theatre Representative of Britain through the British Arts Council and travelled to the Philippines as part of a culture exchange aimed at promoting cross cultural collaborations. She has directed shows in Ireland, Britain, Turkey and the Philippines.


In 2011 Bronagh directed and produced Henry VI Part I at the excavation site of The Rose Theatre Bankside. It was the first time a company had been allowed to perform on the actual ruins, the majority of which is submerged in water. The production was nominated by The Off West End Awards for Best Production and Best Director. 

Directing credits: Girlfriends (The Union Theatre); Rags- the musical (The Lyric Theatre, Shaftesbury Avenue); Times Square Angel (The Union Theatre) A Day In The Death Of Joe Egg (Greenwich Theatre); The Mistress Cycle (Landor Theatre); The Jewish Legacy (Regional tour); Expectations (Arcola); Bat Boy (Berkoff Studio); Blood Wedding (Courtyard Theatre); Newsrevue (Canal Café); Henry VI Part 1 (Rose Theatre); Erris (Theatre 503); Julius Caesar (The Scoop); She (New End Theatre); Contractions (Etcetera Theatre)

Assistant directing credits: Marry Me A Little, directed by Hannah Chiswick The Secret Garden, directed by Kate Saxon as part of Chester Performs (Grosvenor Park Open Air Theatre); Nothing Left to Lose, directed by Tanushka Marah of Company Collisions, (Regional tour & Purcell Rooms); 

Bronagh is delighted to be working with Kate again.

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  Joshua Mayes-Cooper

Joshua Mayes-Cooper

Timms

Joshua Mayes-Cooper graduated from LAMDA in 2011. Since then has worked regularly in TV, film and theatre.

Previous TV credits include Silk (BBC), Holby (BBC), Doctors (BBC) and he recently shot the US series Outlander (Starz).

Theatre includes the UK tour of Chapel Street and he received rave reviews for his performance in Operation Crucible (Finborough Theatre).

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Caroline Hannam

Costume Supervisor

Trained at The Arts Institute at Bournemouth.

Costume Supervisor credits include: The Mousetrap (Diamond Anniversary tour) Dance 'Til Dawn (West End & UK tour) Midnight Tango (Phoenix, Aldwych & UK tours) Driving Miss Daisy (West End & UK tour) Little Voice (UK tour) Footloose (UK tour) Sign of the Times (Duchess) Bells Are Ringing (Union) Jest End/So Jest End (Players & Jermyn Street) Shout (West End & UK Tour)

Head of Wardrobe credits include;

Dance 'Til Dawn (West End & UK tour) Cabaret (UK tour) Midnight Tango (Phoenix,

Aldwych & UK tours) Driving Miss Daisy (West End & UK tour) The Haunting (UK tour) Aspects of Love (Menier Chocolate Factory) Hairspray (Shaftesbury) Shout (UK tour) Footloose (Playhouse) Acorn Antiques the Musical (UK Tour) Seven Brides for Seven Brothers (Haymarket & UK tours) Jeckyll & Hyde (UK tour) Beauty & the Beast (UK tour) Fiddler on the Roof (UK tour) Carousel (UK tour) Anything Goes (UK tour) 

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Annemette Verspeak

Company Voice Coach

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  Patrick McNamee

Patrick McNamee

Lockwood

Patrick has just graduated from LAMDA, this is his professional theatre debut.

Television: Inspector George Gently

In Training: Sweeney Todd, A Midsummer’s Night Dream, A Few Good Men, Love and a Bottle, The Way of the World, Three Sisters, Hamlet.

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Terry Besson

Voice Coach

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  Sid Sagar

Sid Sagar

Akthar

Theatre credits include: True Brits (HighTide/Bush Theatre/Assembly Hall, Edinburgh); Eternal Love (ETT/Shakespeare's Globe); The Taming of the Shrew (Shakespeare's Globe); Orpheus and Eurydice (National Youth Theatre/Old Vic Tunnels). 

Television credits include: The Hollow Crown - Richard III (BBC); The Lost Honour of Christopher Jefferies (ITV).

Film credits include: Karma Magnet (Black & Blue Films). 

Rehearsed Readings include: Chicken (Bristol Old Vic); Homecoming (Bristol Old Vic); National Theatre's Connections Festival (National Theatre); Listen To Me (Unicorn Theatre). 

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Lucy Jenkins CDG and Sooki McShane CDG

Casting

Recent theatre includes:  Posh (Salisbury & Nottingham), All My Sons and Moon on a Rainbow Shawl (Talawa / National Tour), To Kill a Mockingbird (Regents Park and tour), Our Country’s Good (Out Of Joint), Much Ado About Nothing (Royal Exchange Theatre), War Horse (UK Tour/West End), Solid Air (Theatre Royal Plymouth), Afraid of the Dark (Charing Cross Theatre), Flying in to Daylight and Tyne (Live Theatre),  Chalet Lines (Bush Theatre/Live Theatre), Cooking with Elvis/ Wet House (Live Theatre/Soho) Serpent’s Tooth (Almeida/Talawa),The Glee Club, (Cast Theatre), for Nottingham Playhouse: Arcadia, Time and the Conways, The Kite Runner, My Judy Garland Life, Richard III, The Ashes and Diary of a Football Nobody. For The Park Theatre:  Contact.com, Jack and the Beanstalk, Man to Man, The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance,  Desdemona, Bomber’s Moon,  Sleeping Beauty, Adult Supervision and Casualties and several productions for The Mercury Theatre, Colchester including The Opinion Makers, The Butterfly Lion, The Good Person Of Sichuan  and The Hired Man.

Television credits include: In The Dock (RDF), Skins (Company Pictures), Wild At Heart (Company Pictures), The Bill (Talkback Thames), Samuel Johnson: The Dictionary Man (October Films), Family Affairs (Talkback Thames).

Film credits include: Pulsar (Reel Issues Films) Awaiting (Greenscreen), Arthur and Merlin (Movieworks), Containment (Bright Cold Day Films), Five-A-Side (Emerald Films), Entity (Nexus DNA), The Somnambulists (No Bad Films), Desi Boyz (Desi Boyz Productions), H10 (Dan Films)

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Lee Batty

Production Manager

West End Credits as PM include “My Trip Down the Pink Carpet” Apollo theatre  “2011 Laurence Olivier Awards” Theatre Royal Drury Lane  “My Trip Down The Pink Carpet” Apollo Theatre. “Driving Miss Daisy” Wyndhams Theatre. “Tailor Made Man” Arts Theatre London. “West end Men” Vaudeville Theatre. “Tell me on a Sunday” Duchess Theatre. “Urinetown” Apollo Theatre. “Potted Potter Vaudeville theatre”

Touring and provincial credits as Production Manager include “Shout The Musical” “The Play What I Wrote” “Kes” “Boogie Nights 2” “Stones in his Pockets”  “Paul Zerdin, Spongefest” “Paul Zerdin No strings” “Hormonal Housewives” “Doctor In the House” “ The Rise and Fall of Little Voice.”  “Driving Miss Daisy” both in the UK and Australia. “Finding Neverland.” Curve Leicester. “Miracle on 34th Street UK Tour  “Evita” Lubljanja festival. “ Siddartha The Musical” Edinburgh festival and World tour.  “ Invincible” St James Theatre.  “Saturday night fever” UK Tour, “Harvey” Birmingham Rep and UK Tour

Lee is the Head of Production for the Olivier Awards held annually at the Royal Opera House Covent Garden and The UK Theatre Awards held annually at the Guildhall London.

Live events include Spanking New Music tours and live stages at The Great Escape and Oxegen festivals for MTV. Paolo Nutini live for VH1 and Global Gathering, Leeds Carnival and Leeds festival for BBC 1Xtra.

Lee’s Producer credits include: “The English Mystery Plays” Starring Sir Patrick Stewart  “Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs” Starring Claire King and Kathryn Kelly and “Jack and the Beanstalk” starring Paul Shane and Lucy Evans. Economy of thought By Patrick Mcfadden.

For further details go to: www.leebatty.co.uk

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  Kedar Williams-Stirling

Kedar Williams-Stirling

Dakin

Kedar’s career started at a very young age and has continued through the years on stage as well as on screen in film and television.

Theatre credits includes: Clay in Dutchman (The Crate); Scud in Welcome to Thebes (The National Theatre); Philip in Big White Fog (The Almeida); Young Simba in The Lion King (The Lyceum)

Film and television credits includes: Tom in Wolfblood ( BBC, 3 Series); Lorenzo in Montana (Dir: Mo Ali); Junior in Shank (Dir: Mo Ali); Richard Cole in Doctors (BBC); Levi in Silent Witness (BBC); Aide in The Bill (Thames Television)

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  David Young

David Young

Rudge

David has just graduated from LAMDA and is making his professional theatre debut in The History Boys.

For LAMDA: Includes - Attempts on Her Life, The School of Night (Moscow Tour), The Revenger’s Tragedy, Sweeney Todd, A Few Good Men, Strivers, Cymbeline, Three Sisters, The Way of the World, Orestes, The Duchess of Malfi, For Services Rendered, Iona Rain.

Film: Includes - The Show (Phoenix Film Productions, directed by James Alexandrou), State Zero (Short, directed by Andrée Wallin), Every Eight Minutes (LAMDA Films, directed by Tom Shkolnik).

Television: Includes - Downton Abbey.

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Nick Bryan

Company Stage Manager

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Kala Simpson

Deputy Stage Manager

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Nikki Gooch

Assistant Stage Manager

Nikki is a freelance stage manager. She trained at Middlesex University and graduated in 2007 with a BA (hons) in Technical Theatre.

Recent credits include: ASM on ‘Another Place’ (Theatre Royal Plymouth), Stage Manager on ‘Soul Music’ and ‘Macbeth’ with YMTUK (Rose Theatre, Kingston and Lyric Theatre, Belfast), ASM/book cover on ‘The 39 Steps’ (Criterion Theatre, London), ASM on ‘Romeo and Juliet’ and ‘Rapunzel and the Rascal Prince’ (Theatre Royal, Bury St Edmunds), Stage Manager on ‘Terry Pratchett’s ‘Mort’ the musical’ (Rose Theatre, Kingston), Stage Manager on ‘XY’ (Theatre 503, London), ASM on  ‘Vampirette the musical’ (Manchester Opera House),  ASM on ‘A Round Heeled Woman’(Aldwych Theatre and Riverside Studios, London).

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  Melody Brown

Melody Brown

Fiona

Melody recently appeared as Karen in Gary Owen’s Free Folk for Forest Forge. She worked with Kate Saxon on the title role of Bubbles for the Watermill Theatre. Melody played Ariel in The Tempest for the Marlowe Theatre and Chalkfoot, and she devised and performed the role of Orange Juice in Twisting Yarn’s epic tour of Life of Pi. Melody has also worked with Pilot Theatre, Freakshow, Yellow Earth, Mu Lan, Southwark Playhouse, Cardboard Citizens, Border Crossings and London Bubble. She trained at Manchester Polytechnic School of Theatre and plays bass in the legendary Eurasian electro-acoustic power trio, Wondermare. 

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David Phillips

Production Electrician & Relighter

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Robb Mookhoek

Production Electrician & Relighter

Robb Mookhoek, so your probably having difficulty trying to pronounce the surname, correct? It originates from the Netherlands and is pronounced Mo-cook. Robb has had an interest in theatre since he can remember. 

His most recent theatre credits include: 

Technical Assistant Stage Manager for East is East (UK Tour),
Company Stage Manager for Peter Pan (Assembly Hall, Tunbridge Wells),
Technical Assistant Stage Manager & Video Engineer for The Kite Runner (UK Tour). 

Robb is thrilled to be working as the Production Electrician and recreating Chris Davey's lighting for the UK Tour of The History Boys. 

Robb is also a freelance Stage, Lighting, Sound and Audio Visual Technician.

You can keep updated with Robb by following him on Twitter @YesRobb or by dropping him an email info@RobbM.co.uk

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"A thought-provoking couple of hours"

Nicole Evans (The Public Reviews)

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"Shrewdly funny... A vivid, propulsive rendering of a 21st-century classic"

Sam Marlowe (The Times)

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"Plenty to admire"

Maxwell Cooter (What's On Stage)

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"A true classic which every theatre-goer should see"

Chris Brown (Polaroids & Polar Bears)

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"A good, well-cast production"

Bella Todd (The Stage)

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    "A thoroughly good night out"

    Pete Thorn (Leigh-on-Sea.com)

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      "A credit to the ingenious writing of Alan Bennett"

      Phil Harrison

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        "Full of wit and wisdom"

        Lyn Gardner (The Guardian)

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          "Wonderful, wonderful, not-to-be-missed production"

          Katie Jarvis (Cotswold Life)

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          "A thought-provoking couple of hours"

          Nicole Evans (The Public Reviews)

          Set in the 1980’s, six Tony Award winning, The History Boys aims to point out the strengths and flaws of an education system perceived to be rapidly declining. Covering a class of boys preparing for a shot at Oxbridge exams it explores every aspect of confusion in both teaching and being taught, and despite the notion that teaching has changed drastically over the last 30 years, the parallels to the current system are still at the forefront of our minds.
          The simple set grabs our attention as we take our seats; a wall of books and a motorbike suspended by the ceiling stand out and are immediate talking points for the audience. A classroom set up is all that is provided for us to visually set the scene, and it soon emerges that it is all that is needed. We soon meet the many stars of the show and with somebody on stage for each and every one of us to connect with in some way, we are quickly drawn in to the events that are unfolding.
          Encompassing very different attitudes towards teaching, from the clear cut league table orientated results approach of headmaster and the straight talking facts of Mrs Lintott to the life-lessons-learnt approach of Hector, both the boys and the audience are taught valuable lessons, neither quite knowing what is right or wrong and where the two should cross over within the characters in front of us.
          Most of us have that one teacher who stands out way above the rest, not only can you remember his name, but his facial features, what he wore, how he did his hair. He went out of his way to make teaching different, to make it fun, and once you left education you appreciated him a little bit more every time you were reminded of him. Of course he’s bothered about results, but less about league tables and perceived intelligence, his idiosyncrasies seek to prepare you for the world you will face when the education system turfs you out. Those who didn’t have that teacher, now wish they did. This is exactly who Alan Bennett sought for Hector to represent in this play and Richard Hope captures every last inch of the job specification, managing to portray his character with such warmth that you, and his fellow characters, almost find yourself forgiving his outrageous crimes and celebrating when they are reprieved – and then later question your reasons for doing so. Christopher Ettridge is well suited to his role as the hypocritical headmaster and he perfects the do goody, panicky persona of one who feels the government and its ideals are breathing down his neck at every turn of page. Mark Field portrays the awkwardness of Irwin’s character subtly yet superbly. Brought in as the expert yet left feeling like the inferior being when faced with the boys’ divided loyalties to his teaching, not quite sure himself where he should be in life but supposedly imparting such knowledge on to others, his inner battle is clearly visible in every aspect of his performance.
          Steven Roberts makes his professional stage debut as Posner, and what a debut it is. Flipping from confidently camp to antisocially alienated he digs deep to show us the intricate levels of his character’s development.
          A thought-provoking couple of hours that will make you question the importance and origins of your own inner creativity and individuality, as you never know when the weight of the world’s expectations might just kill it off altogether.

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          "Shrewdly funny... A vivid, propulsive rendering of a 21st-century classic"

          Sam Marlowe (The Times)

          Roaring out on the road again, here’s Alan Bennett’s hugely popular 2004 school drama, trailing clouds of poetry, ambition and adolescent hormones like the exhaust fumes from its maverick teacher’s motorbike. An examination and the randomness of history and life, it’s both ardent and shrewdly funny, and Kate Saxon’s new production for Sell a Door has a pacy fluidity. Bennett offsets his ideas with theatrical anarchy – outbreaks of song and monologue – well matched to teenage emotional tumult and Saxon deftly handles the shifts from intimate and intellectual to riotous.
          The 1980s Sheffield grammar school setting is adorned in Libby Watson’s design with neon signs blinking a garish promise of future possibilities: “Live the dream,” exhorts one. Also dangling overhead is that motorbike, property of Hector, who is passionate about instilling in his sixth-form charges a love of knowledge for its own sake – and partial to illicit fondling when he persuades the boys to ride pillion on lifts home. As played by Richard Hope, he’s vigorously flamboyant, collapsing dramatically onto his desk in mock despair at his pupils’ cocksure cheek. This action is mirrored poignantly later when, his wandering hands exposed, he is given his marching orders. Hector is on a collision course with Irwin (Mark Field), a supply teacher charged with coaching the boys for Oxbridge entrance exams. Field’s Irwin is strikingly young, the boundary between him and the swaggering student Dakin (Kedar Williams-Stirling) dangerously thin; when Susan Twist, bracingly lemony as the history teacher Mrs Lintott, alludes to Dakin’s conspicuous charms, you can almost see the sweat on Field’s brow.
          Among the classmates there’s a stand-out performance from Steven Roberts as sensitive, Jewish Posner, who, like Irwin, is enamoured with Dakin. Whirling into a French cabaret number in Hector’s unorthodox lesson or listening, horrified, as Irwin describes the Holocaust as just another historical event, Roberts is as vulnerable as an open wound. A vivid, propulsive rendering of a 21st-century classic.

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          "Plenty to admire"

          Maxwell Cooter (What's On Stage)

          The National Theatre production of The History Boys is part of theatre: not just because it's a superb play but because so many of the cast went onto other (if not better) things.

          To use a metaphor that would have been abhorrent to Hector, the charismatic teacher at the heart of the play, that National production resembled a rock band that had a minor hit but was the progenitor of several other major groups. It means that the original cast is still the standard by which all other productions are measured.

          There's plenty to admire in Kate Saxon's new production, but what is missing is much of the humour of the original. Maybe we're all overly familiar with the play now and some of Bennett's bon mots have lost a little of their sparkle but this is a production that scores heavily on the politics and less on wit.

          However, there are some strong performances at the heart of the play. Richard Hope's Hector is less camp than the Richard Griffiths original but we can certainly sense why his manner captivates the boys. Mark Field's Irwin is nicely judged, there's a real sense of the underlying insecurity of the character – he is after all supposed to be ‘just five minutes older' than the boys he's teaching – and we can feel the uncertainty in his own career path and sexuality. And Christoher Etteridge is excellent as Armstrong, the results-fixated headmaster; a brusque, charmless individual with little feeling for the subtleties of teaching.

          Among the boys, Kedar Williams-Sterling is a strongly confident Dakin, while Steven Roberts perfectly captures the fragility and self-doubt of Posner.

          Perhaps the saddest aspect of the evening is the little guide in the programme explaining who the people quoted in the play are. When audiences have to be told who Auden, Pascal and Wittgenstein are, then we know that the Armstrongs of this world have won and the Hectors have nothing but their meagre pension to look forward to.

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          "A true classic which every theatre-goer should see"

          Chris Brown (Polaroids & Polar Bears)

          It was back to the 80’s last night for an evening  of synth-pop, sex, scandal and scholarship as Alan Bennett’s multi-award winning play, The History Boys took to the stage at Belgrade Theatre, Coventry.

          Voted the nation’s favourite play, The History Boys is the story of a group of bright, funny and rather unruly sixth-formers in pursuit of sex, sport and a place at university. With a headmaster who is obsessed with results, a maverick English teacher who leads entire lessons in French and a young supply teacher who thinks the holocaust was “just another event”, the students have to learn for themselves whether the truth always gets them where they want to go.

          Originally performed at The National Theatre, the 2015 tour is courtesy of Sell A Door Theatre Company, who have a lot to live up to. Without a doubt though Sell A Door deliver what the audience want. Raw nerves are hit as these post A Level students prepare for life after school leading to both laughter and tears.

          Steven Roberts’ performance as Posner, the ‘small jewish homosexual’ is a real stand out. Impromptu skits from classic films such as Brief Encounters add a whole new element to the play, leaving the audience in fits of hysterics. Richard Hope, who plays loveable English teacher Hector, reminds the audience of their own favourite teachers and what they loved about school.

          A true testament to the original 2004 production, The History Boys is a true classic which every theatre-goer should see.

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          "A good, well-cast production"

          Bella Todd (The Stage)

          Alan Bennett takes great satisfaction, at the close of his comedy about the value of education for education’s sake, in revealing that the eight boys go on to be nothing so very much at all. But The History Boys’ reputation as a seedbed for young male acting talent has been growing for more than a decade. Are there new Russell Toveys, Dominic Coopers and James Cordens within this cast?
          The class of 2015 are the best thing about Kate Saxon’s good production of what has always been a flawed play. You believe in their inexpertly sardonic horsing about, their uncomfortable smirks, their haircuts. Steven Roberts works hardest as a gangly Posner, trailing after class hunk Dakin (Kedar Williams-Stirling) in limp-limbed lamentation, but finding his own elastic grace performing showtunes. Silly suspended motorbike aside, Libby Watson’s cosy classroom, lined with dusty books and pop culture posters, is a set the boys are both at home in and fast outgrowing.
          Richard Hope is a less fruity and flamboyant Hector than Richard Griffiths, his tragedy gentler although no less morally jarring. As his adversaries, Mark Field is a rather limp Irwin, but Christopher Ettridge seizes his comic moments as the headmaster. “You are aware that these boys are Oxford candidates?” he demands, while stepping over a pair of discarded trousers.
          Set in the 1980s, The History Boys is really riddled with an older, grammar school nostalgia, so that the loud bursts of Heaven 17 and New Order here feel incongruous. Instead the energy radiates, as always, from those famous set pieces. Like Hector, The History Boys is still warming itself on the vitality of the boys.
          Verdict: A good, well-cast production that nevertheless flags up the flaws in ‘the nation’s favourite play’

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            "It is Steven Robert’s fragile Barbra Streisand-loving Posner who steals your heart"

            Catherine Vonledebur (Coventry Telegraph)

            Kate Saxon’s fresh adaptation of Alan Bennett’s incredibly funny play, about a group of Northern sixth-formers in a 1980s grammar, introduces a new class of talent.

            The History Boys was a big hit sensation when it opened nearly 11 years ago at The National Theatre in May 2004, causing a meltdown at the box office.

            The A-level students are groomed for Oxford and Cambridge by three inspirational teachers under the reins of Christopher Ettridge’s league table obsessed headmaster who feels they are “a little ordinary”. He brings in newly-qualified teacher Irwin to give them “edge”. “Think polish,” he tells Irwin.

            Richard Hope’s English master Hector, is a gentler and less flamboyant character than Richard Griffiths’ portrayal in the film but equally moving. Susan Twist is very good as sardonic history teacher Mrs Lintott and in his beige suit and glasses, Mark Field, is a quietly understated and rather serious Irwin, looking every inch the part of a typical 80s history teacher.

            The play not only asks important questions about the value and meaning of education; but how history and English are taught.

            Then there is the groping of the boys by Hector on the back of his motorbike. He is seen “fiddling” while stopping at the traffic lights, through a charity shop window by the headmaster’s wife. Mrs Lintott later tells Irwin it is a perfect illustration of the randomness of history, as his wife never usually worked in the shop on a Wednesday.

            Scenes are interspersed with quick blasts of 80s pop from Soft Cell’s Tainted Love to New Order’s Blue Monday and Papa’s got a Brand New Pig Bag.

            The play, which has echoes of the films Goodbye Mr Chips and Dead Poet’s Society, has lost none of its original charm or Northern humour. Hector’s general studies class where the boys’ act out a brothel scene in French with great relish, is still very amusing. The boys’ impersonation of famous scenes from the 1940s films Now, Voyager and Brief Encounter is also great fun.

            Of the sixth formers, Kedar Williams-Stirling – Tom on CBBC’s Wolfblood – is an impossibly handsome, cocky Dakin, Joshua Mayes-Cooper, a playful Timms, but it is Steven Robert’s fragile Barbra Streisand-loving Posner who steals your heart. After coming out to Irwin he has the classic line: “I’m small, I’m homosexual and I’m from Sheffield – I’m f***ed.” Dakin’s love interest, Fiona, makes only a fleeting appearance.

            The History Boys, is set simply in a school classroom with a piano, the back wall covered in bookcases and posters of literary heroes, Pre-Raphaelites, and Che Guevara. Centre-stage Hector’s motorbike hangs from the ceiling.

            The Belgrade is the second venue to stage this revival on a six-month UK tour so catch this witty, life-enhancing play, while you can.

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              "A thoroughly good night out"

              Pete Thorn (Leigh-on-Sea.com)

              Why not support our local Palace Theatre and enjoy a thoroughly good night out at the same time.
              This week, there is a production of the Alan Bennett’s History Boys play presented by a brand-new touring company which will guarantee to please. It transports the audience back to the 1980’s and is an allegory on Thatcherite values, as culture and knowledge for its own sake give way to the spin and results driven society we experience today. 

              It is the story of 8 bright, funny history students who stay on at school after their A’ Levels in the pursuit of an undergraduate place at either Oxford or Cambridge. As well as following the boy’s education it charts their sexual and mental awakenings as they are groomed and bounced between their maverick English teacher (Richard Hope), who regularly swats his students and fiddles (to use the euphemism of choice) with the more attractive of them outside school, a fresh out of training supply teacher to up their test results (Mark Field), an outnumbered history teacher (Susan Twist), and a headmaster obsessed by results (Christopher Etteridge). 

              Amidst the humour, it is easy to overlook the dark overtones of the play, but the cast have worked brilliantly and have struck the balance just right to create a class of eccentric, cocky boys and the empathy between them and those responsible for their futures. 

              There are some strong performances from Kedar Williams-Stirling as Darkin who creates great tension between himself and the supply teacher Irwin (Mark Field) when the plucky pupil invites the young educator to engage in a sexual activity. Steven Roberts as Posner gives an outstanding performance as does Richard Hope as Hector. 

              This Alan Bennett play, undoubtedly one of his finest, is well worth a visit. 

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                "A credit to the ingenious writing of Alan Bennett"

                Phil Harrison

                IT is a credit to the ingenious writing of Alan Bennett that a play which includes some quite overt references to a beloved teacher fondling a pupil on a motorbike could be taken into the heart of a nation, so much so, that it was recently voted Britain’s favourite play of all time.

                You do not beat the likes of William Shakespeare to that accolade without a sharp wit and deeply engaging characters – something that The History Boys has in abundance.

                The play first opened at the National Theatre in 2004 with an all-star cast which included the late Richard Griffiths as inspirational yet flawed teacher, Hector, and a fresh-faced James Corden as cheeky pupil, Timms.

                A film followed in 2006 but this new touring production, which opened at the Palace Theatre in Westcliff-on-Sea this week, reminds us that Alan Bennett’s writing really does belong on the stage.

                The play is based around a group of sixth form students fighting it out for a place at Oxford and Cambridge university.

                Yet the classroom becomes a battleground for a bigger theme – do we teach pupils simply for exams or for life in general?

                The audience are treated to a thought-provoking clash between archaic poetry-loving Hector, expertly played by Richard Hope, and results-driven supply teacher Irwin, whose youthful naivety with the children is encapsulated in the performance of Mark Field.

                The play’s snappy dialogue has something for everyone and can be compared to watching an episode of University Challenge (stay with me on this one).

                You might not get every historical reference or intellectual quip but they come so thick and fast, much like Jeremy Paxman furiously spewing questions in the final minutes of University Challenge, that there will always be something to entertain and amuse.

                But for anyone who is still worried, I can happily attest to the fact this play is not just for intellectuals – that is easily evidenced by the fact I have seen it on the stage countless times now and keep coming back for more.

                This new cast bring a fresh feel to the play and help highlight the emotional depth to each individual character.

                Performances of note include an emotional yet entertaining display by Steven Roberts as musical-loving misfit, Posner, and Kedar Williams-Sterling as cocky schoolboy, Dakin.

                But the standout performance has to go to Susan Twist who gives the lesser known role of Mrs Lintott a powerful significance within the intricate plot.

                The History Boys launched the careers of Gavin and Stacey star James Corden, Mamma Mia heart-throb Dominic Cooper and Him & Her star (and Billericay boy) Russell Tovey.

                With this production set to move on across the country after tonight (Saturday) I would urge anyone to take the last chance to see some future stars of stage and screen in this modern day classic.

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                  "Full of wit and wisdom"

                  Lyn Gardner (The Guardian)

                  Voted the nation’s favourite play in a 2013 poll, Alan Bennett’s 2004 drama set in a Sheffield grammar school in the 1980s, where a group of sixth-formers are aiming for Oxford, launched the careers of James Corden, Dominic Cooper, Samuel Barnett and Jamie Parker. It sets up a conflict between Hector (Richard Hope), the maverick English master who believes “exams are the enemy of education” and teaches his pupils to be thoughtful, and the coming man, Irwin (Mark Field), who teaches the students to be smart, pass exams and win scholarships. If you want to play spot-the-future-star from the fine cast in Sell a Door’s no-frills touring revival, bet on Steven Roberts, who gets under the skin of the lovelorn, self-aware Posner, noting: “I’m a Jew. I’m small. I’m homosexual, and I live in Sheffield. I’m fucked.” For so pithily a crafted play about the consequences of history, this has always been something of a period piece. The play has never quite felt comfortable in its 1980s setting, harking back instead to the 1950s, when Bennett himself was a bright grammar-school boy. In the age of Operation Yewtree, the story of boys groping their way towards knowledge under the tutelage of Hector, who tries to grope them as they ride pillion on his motorcycle, refuses to be viewed quite so comically. Director Kate Saxon admits as much in the programme, raising the fact that Bennett has said that “he finds it harder to forgive Irwin for fiddling with the boys’ minds than Hector for doing the same with their bodies”, but making the point that it is still assault. The production doesn’t quite succeed in side-stepping the problem, although the motorcycle suspended over the stage keeps the issue in mind, but that’s in part that because, for all its intellectual clout, there is something quite cosy and reactionary about Bennett’s view of the boys and the grammar-school system. Still, it’s an entertaining couple of hours full of wit and wisdom about the difference between being schooled to pass exams and claiming an education, while Saxon’s revival cannily suggests that the emotional distortions and lies of adults are as much a danger to the young as the wrong education.

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                    "Wonderful, wonderful, not-to-be-missed production"

                    Katie Jarvis (Cotswold Life)

                    There are those delicious stories (who cares if they’re apocryphal?) about the Oxbridge interviews, of course. The don who, insouciantly reading The Times, drawled to a candidate, “Entertain me”; the candidate, allegedly, set fire to his newspaper. Or – my own particular favourite – the entrance exam with the question, “What is a risk?” According to Oxbridge lore, one hopeful wrote, “This is”, walked out of the exam leaving the rest blank, and was awarded a scholarship. Let’s call that the Hector School of Education. Then there are the examples we can all draw on, such as the experience of my daughter, sitting GCSE religious studies at a school high up in the league tables. During a mock exam, she answered the question, “Why do people believe in God?” Her essay included her theory that people were comforted by the idea of a loving deity. By the side of this point, a teacher had chided, “This is not part of the model answer.” Let’s call that the Irwin School of Education. You probably don’t need me to tell you that Alan Bennett’s play The History Boys is sublime. You might need me to tell you that the Everyman production, by Sell A Door (possibly one of the most beautiful combinations of sounds in the English language) Theatre Company, does it utter, utter justice. Brilliantly directed by Kate Saxon, if this production were an Oxbridge candidate, it would be awarded an instant exhibition at Magdalen (and definitely know how to pronounce it). Like the boys themselves, I couldn’t take my eyes off Richard Hope as Hector who couldn’t keep his hands off the boys. (“I didn’t want to turn out boys who in later life had a deep love of literature, or who would talk in middle age of the lure of language and their love of words. Words said in that reverential way that is somehow Welsh.”) So let’s backtrack a little. Bennett’s play follows eight students studying history at a Sheffield grammar in the 1980s, preparing hopefully for Oxbridge entry. They’re all bright – no question of that – but each of their teachers knows that almost every potential Oxbridge student offers the kind of A level results that set the heavenly host naively rejoicing. Dons are far harder to please. These candidates need something extra. The question is, what? For the young supply-teacher, Irwin, the answer lies in contrary intellect and clever positing: the Holocaust can be viewed in the same context as the Dissolution of the Monasteries, he tells the boys, including Posner (“I’m a Jew... I’m small... I’m homosexual... and I live in Sheffield... I’m f***d”). The charismatic Hector, however, considers A levels a “cheat’s visa” and general studies “useless knowledge”. Hector sees that education is about understanding, not learning; about improving life, not knowledge; about self-containment, not showing off; about a thirst for the world, past and present, that consumes for its own sake: “The best moments in reading are when you come across something - a thought, a feeling, a way of looking at things - that you’d thought special, particular to you. And here it is, set down by someone else, a person you’ve never met, maybe even someone long dead. And it’s as if a hand has come out, and taken yours.” And he thinks all these things while cradling the boys’ nether regions as he takes them pillion on his motorbike. The funny thing is, like the boys, it’s Hector we love. It’s Hector, with his paedophilic ways, who inspires us. Irwin we feel sorry for; even when we learn (if we study the origins of the play) that Bennett used Irwin’s techniques to gain places in both Cambridge and Oxford. This was a production that flew by. The boys were excellent, but no more so than the wonderful all-singing, all-confused Posner (brought to life by Steven Roberts ex of Hollyoaks fame); and Scripps (Alex Hope), whose combination of religious fervour and down-to-earth sense provides many of the subtler laughs. And there are many laughs, as well as pain. Mark Field’s Irwin is perfect; Christopher Ettridge as headmaster and Susan Twist as Mrs Lintott are also excellent. But Richard Hope? My word. It’s not the easiest of tasks to make us sympathise with this complex character, but there can’t have been many in the audience who wouldn’t have fleetingly considered riding pillion for a teacher like that. (Don’t think I’m belittling the significance of this; neither, of course, does Bennett. Our reactions, framed by a timewarp, are an element of the equation we’re asked to balance.) It is, at times, a challenging play, not least the scenes in French (but, as they’re set in a brothel, the actions speak louder). The only annoying thing about that is always the section of audience determined to laugh in a way that forces you to acknowledge their erudition. (Honestly, guys; keep it for Shakespeare comedies.) In theory, the questions this play asks could be as dry as dust. In practice, the only dry thing about Bennett is his consummate wit. And also in practice, these dry questions are ones we should be asking more and more, as our children jump through hoops of fire, sometimes to end up being consumed by the fire itself. I once went to a talk by David Blunkett, responsible for a deal of modern education policy. During audience questions, I asked whether he worried – as did I – that we were teaching our children to pass exams, rather than to love learning. “No!” he replied, emphatically. At the end of his hour-and-a-half session, I thought to myself, what a lovely, lovely, well-behaved dog.

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