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Not having ever read the play by Alan Bennett, or seen the film adaptation of The History Boys, I went into the production knowing very little about it. Set in the 1980s, the story revolves around six bright, high-spirited students and their very different teachers – Hector (Ian Redford) and Irwin (Lee Comley). The teaching staff is rounded out by Jeffrey Holland as the results-obsessed headmaster Felix, and Victoria Carling as Mrs Lintott (in fact, the only female in the whole play).

Hector is a man confused about his own sexuality, which causes issues for him and others, and who wants to, if not incite the boys to rebellion, at least make them think for themselves about what they want to do with their lives, rather than merely follow the path to Oxbridge which Felix is determined they must do. Young supply teacher Irwin is brought in to temper Hector’s anarchic style of teaching. Mr Lintott is the foil to all three of the male teachers, seeing things more clearly and stating things more succinctly. The boys not only have to cope with the pressure of dealing with their futures, but also with everything that comes with being a teenager – they can be loud, raucous, in some cases, discovering their own sexuality, and for at least one, turning to religion to the bemusement of his unseen parents (they were prepared for dealing with drugs, but not for God!)

The beauty of this production was in the script, which was fast paced, humorous and poignant, but also in the casting; whoever was in charge of picking the cast did an outstanding job, as there was not one single weak link in the whole cast.

The boys were played by Thomas Grant as Posner – in love with a fellow student, coming to terms with his homosexuality, but with a sweet sense of humour and a lovely singing voice which he was able to demonstrate on a number of occasions; Jordan Scowen as Dakin, cocksure for the most part but displaying vulnerability too, witty and clever; Frazer Hadfield as Scripps (I adored him), probably the most level headed of the group, sometime narrator to the audience, and an excellent piano player; Joe Wiltshire Smith as the non-academic Rudge with a dry sense of humour; James Schofield as Lockwood; Arun Bassi as Akthar; Dominic Treacy in a very humorous turn as Timms; and Adonis Jenieco as Crowther.

The musical interludes – featuring well known songs from the eighties with video clips of the cast, showing what is going on with the characters outside of what is going on on stage – were ingenious and allowed seamless set changes on stage.

Overall, a truly wonderful production – highly highly recommended.

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I first saw this play at the Swan Theatre in Stratford-upon-Avon, in July 2013 (please see below for my link to the review), and when I heard that it was touring, I knew I had to see it again.  Wolverhampton Grand Theatre is set up very differently to the Swan Theatre, so logistically some of the entrances and exits of the actors had to be changed, as well as there being some changes to the scenery set-up.  A lot (though by no means all) of the main cast had also changed but happily, the show was just as enjoyable and funny second time around.

In essence, the story consists of young Dick Follywit, a likeable cad, who is determined to con his uncle, Sir Bounteous Seersucker (yes, really!) out of his fortune, and employs various methods to do so.  Meanwhile in a separate storyline, Mrs Littledick wants to pursue an extra-marital affair with Sir Penitent Brothel, but her husband Mr Littledick is determined to keep a close eye on her, so she uses her friend, prostitute Truly Kidman to act as go-between between her and Penitent.

The play is bawdy, and very VERY saucy.  If you are not one for dirty jokes, then this probably isn’t the show for you.  However, if you don’t mind rude humour, then you are guaranteed a lot of laughs.  Joe Bannister was excellent as Dick Follywit, and I really liked Ben Deery and Dennis Herdman as Mr Littledick and Penitent Brothel respectively.  The roles of Mrs Littledick, Truly Kidman, Mrs Kidman and Sir Bounteous Seersucker are still being played by the same actors as previously (Ellie Beaven) Sarah Ridgeway, Ishia Bennison and Ian Redford), and it is clear that they have not lost their enthusiasm for this play.

Linda John-Pierre also returns as the soul singer with the incredible voice; her and Ellie Beaven’s duet of Cry Me a River was sensational.  Ian Redford was hilarious as Bounteous Peersucker, and I also really enjoyed David Rubin as Bounteous’ deaf, shuffling old butler, Spunky.

If you haven’t seen this play before, do yourself a favour and get tickets.  If you have seen it before…do yourself a favour and get more tickets!  I thought it was just as joyful and delightful second time around, and if it tours again in future, I shall certainly be seeing it for a third time.

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Click here for my review of the play at the Swan Theatre, Stratford-upon-Avon, in 2013.

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Adapted from a Thomas Middleton play written in 1605, Director Sean Foley has based this comedy in 1950s London, which is a perfect setting for a filthy, hilarious comedy about sex and money, with plenty of innuendo, and double (and single) entendres.

Dick Follywit decides to con his rich uncle Bounteous Peersucker out of his fortune by playing a Lord, a prostitute and an actor, while in a parallel storyline, Mr Penitent Brothel is madly in love with Mrs Littledick, but her husband’s paranoia about her fidelity prevents them from being together.  Tying both stories together is prostitute Truly Kidman, who poses as a nun in order to become friends with Mrs Littledick and help her meet Mr Brothel in secret.

The action was fast and snappy, and the stage looked wonderful – colourful, glamorous and seedy, and the musical numbers, sung by jazz singer Linda John-Pierre (what an amazing voice!) were wonderful.

The cast were all terrific in their performances, and it’s hard not to imagine that they were having as wonderful a time as the audience.  Richard Goulding and John Hopkins (both of whom were so good in Titus Andronicus, this season, also at the Swan Theatre) could not have been better as respectively, Dick Follywit and Penitent Brothel.  Ian Redford was a joy as Sir Bounteous Peersucker, and the two main female roles, Mrs Littledick and Truly Kidman, played by Ellie Beaven and Sarah Ridgeway, were excellent.  The smaller supporting characters also added to the fun (the audience loved Richard Durden’s portrayal of doddery butler Spunky).

There were lots of scene changes, which were seamlessly done, and as well as lots (LOTS!) of very funny lines, there was also plenty of cleverly done physical comedy.  The whole audience seemed to love this show, and honestly, I think it would be hard not to be drawn in and have a good time.  I came out with a huge smile on my face, with my only regret being that I did not have tickets for subsequent performances!  This play should be mandatory viewing for anyone who needs a good belly laugh.  Simply wonderful.

(For more information about the Royal Shakespeare Company, or this production, please click here.)

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Click here for my review of the English Touring Theatre’s production of this play in 2015.

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