There’s little to say about the National Theatre’s production of the History Boys at the Lowry that can’t be said about the film, except that the dark flash-forward bits that didn’t make it onto celluloid don’t really work because the piece is otherwise so nice.
Of course it’s actually too nice as all the boys are not only incredibly intelligent and breathtakingly articulate, they (along with everyone except the headmaster’s unseen wife) are remarkably tolerant of teacher’s need to grope their balls (‘Are we scarred for life, do you think? / We must hope so.’). Yet those dark sequences reveal that things didn’t work out for Posner, the most effeminate boy (‘I’m a Jew. I’m small. I’m homosexual. And I live in Sheffield… I’m fucked.’), who’s reduced to some bizarre blackmail based on these incidents. It doesn’t hang well.
Needless to say as we left the theatre Katharine heard someone complain: ‘it was all right, but a bit gay.’
Despite this fault, on which I’ve laboured too long, this is must see theatre. It flies by, is great fun and makes you wish that no only had schools like that existed, but that you might have fitted in with one.