Tuesday, August 17, 2010


Above: Cast of The History Boys with Alan Bennett and Russell Tovey.

A play without a safety net!

The History Boys Radio Play

Sunday 12 March 2006 19:00-21:30 (Radio 3)

By Alan Bennett, adapted for radio by Richard Wortley from Nicholas Hytner's National Theatre production.

More than three decades on from Forty Years On, Bennett turns his attention once more to education - encompassing both the tussles of staffroom rivalry and the anarchy of adolescence.

Duration: 2 hours 30 minutes


Hector ...... Richard Griffiths
Irwin ...... Geoffrey Streatfeild
Mrs Lintott ...... Frances de la Tour
The Headmaster ...... Clive Merrison
Crowther ...... Samuel Anderson
Posner ...... Samuel Barnett
Dakin ...... Dominic Cooper
Timms ...... James Corden
Akthar ...... Sacha Dhawan
Lockwood ...... Andrew Knott
Scripps ...... Jamie Parker
Rudge ......
Russell Tovey

Samuel Barnett (singer)
Jamie Parker, Tom Attwood (piano)

Producer David Hunter.

The History Boys Radio Play

Review by Nigel Deacon

"The History Boys" is Alan Bennett's new play about education, recently showing at the National Theatre. The play is adapted by Richard Wortley, probably the most experienced radio play producer in the country, and is performed by the original cast.

(Cast, etc: Richard Griffiths, Geoffrey Streatfield, Frances de la Tour, Clive Merrison, Samuel Anderson, Samuel Barnett, Dominic Cooper, James Corden, Sacha Dhawan, Andrew Knott, Jamie Parker, Russell Tovey. Singer Samuel Barnett; pianists Jamie Parker and Tom Attwood; producer David Hunter, director Richard Wortley.)

Before Alan Bennett started writing the play he re-read Giles Cooper's "Unman, Wittering and Zigo", first broadcast in 1958. "The History Boys" are a lot kinder than the murderous schoolboys in Cooper's play, but some of the banter between master and class is common to both plays. In Bennett's play, the boys are meant to be 17 or 18 and clever, and with the beginnings of wisdom. They are tolerant and understanding of one another, and perhaps this explains the spell which their charismatic teacher, Hector, casts over them. "They are all much more frank and tolerant of each other than I can remember me or my contemporaries being" says Bennett.

The play won an Olivier Award at the National. Richard Griffiths is Hector, the maverick motorbike-riding bachelor English teacher. Eight pupils have been selected for Oxbridge entrance. The head (Clive Merrison) brings in a coach, Irwin. Whereas Hector is passionate about the subject, Irwin is dedicated to teaching exams tricks and mirroring current arguments about what education is for.

At the heart of the play are four characters with contrasting outlooks on teaching and school - an eccentric English teacher with no interest in exams, a young supply teacher who sees history as "entertainment", a traditionalist who teaches "history, not histrionics" and a headmaster obsessed with results.

Something very unusual for the director and producer was that the actors used
no scripts - they'd come straight from the National.

The play is being issued as part of the BBC radio collection, on two CDs, lasting about two and a half hours.

Broadcast details: Radio 3, 12 th March 2006.

NB. The above audio CD still on sale at Amazon UK as of 2010.

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