Saturday, May 8, 2010


Bennett's Boys
(This article is edited from the original)
By Robert Simonson of
19 May 2006

Speaking to Russell Tovey (who plays Rudge):

Q: Did your schooling in England bear any resemblance to that found in The History Boys?
A: My education didn’t fair very similar to the one presented in the show. For a start, my personal journey was not one of achievement, but just getting on with it, The naughtier you were the more respect you gained—any sign of intelligence was viewed as a weakness. I’m being dramatic, but at my "state" school, it was far easier to fool around and act the idiot than learn and be proud of learning. There wasn’t a post "A-level" class, either, for advancing on to university. I never heard of this before we started rehearsing The History Boys. I left at 16. The only similarity with my character in that we both act the idiot!!

Q: Did you ever have a teacher like the one played by Richard Griffiths, one who had an influence on you?
A: I had an inspiring teacher in the way that Hector is for the boys, where everything they say is an eye- and ear-opener, only this teacher was female and taught Geography: Mrs. Vincent. This woman was so wonderful in her teaching that you wanted to know and impress her with your knowledge in Geography so much that homework was a joy and the lesson became a firm favorite. Two of my closest girl mates at school went on to become geography teachers themselves because of this woman. She was also the kind of lady you could approach with anything, respecting and trusting her completely. This was a rare thing, Something which I’m sure people relate to or feel nostalgic for in Hector. She did not ride a motorcycle (though it may have suited her temperament—she was a portly Welsh woman), and she did not fiddle with the pupils. I never experienced anything of this kind throughout my schooling, though it hasn’t seemed to have done Alan Bennett any harm.

Q: What is your personal take on the student you portray in the play?
A: I love Rudge. Yeah, he is deemed the dimmest of the boys, but on a level where the class is full of freakishly intelligent children, that can only exist in a play. But in the real world Rudge is the brightest boy in the class. He achieved amazing marks in his A-levels to get admitted into this extra year prepping and obviously can understand what is going on around him. He is a super sportsman—in most schools this would be embraced and celebrated, though in this world of academics it is frowned upon. Again, in reality, this would have been carefully supported and nurtured. He is blunt, honest, no nonsense and confident. It is briefly mentioned that he is having sex, and though it is assumed in the play that Dakin is the most sexually advanced, I disagree with this. I feel Rudge is the most solid and comfortable and more aware of sex than any other character in the play, because it isn’t an issue with him—it just is: "sex on Fridays and the weekend is for rugby and golf." This guy knows his priorities! Rudge is a lucky guy, the kind that wanders along in life and lands on his feet over and over again, without ever feeling any luckier or unluckier than anyone else. I doubt Rudge knows depression. He is too level-headed and emotions of this kind would seem over-dramatic to him. It is a lot of fun playing him every night on stage and it's always a surprise how an audience reacts to him. I think as a character he is possibly the easiest to relate to and one that can be seen to progress throughout, which is why as an actor it's brilliant to have someone with a connection to an audience from the moment you're on stage. Rudge wants to further his education because it is well known that the best all-round sports are found at OxBridge, (He is the captain of the rowing team in the first six months.) The academic side doesn’t bother him; to learn history is just to learn to get on. He couldn’t care less about it; just tell him what he needs to know and he'll do the rest. It's great to have a character that has a hidden secret throughout a play where he is patronized by teachers and colleagues, only in the end to rise above all of them all and leave them shocked by his status and ease! Long live Rudge and all those that compare to him!

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