I guess I should disclose that I know the the Director Jessie Peach as, before setting out on his multi-media career, he sold me bird seed, at the Bird Barn. I should also disclose that I’m not a regular or especially knowledgeable theatre goer, the last live show I saw was Spamalot in Vegas!, but I’m glad i saw this production.
I’m too young to remember Beyond the Fringe so the first memory I have of Alan Bennett is a skit from The Secret Policemans Other Ball (1982). Since then I’ve become familiar with his Film and TV work including one of my all time favourite films: “A Private Function”. I had seen the “The History Boys” movie and can understand the attraction, and challenge, it would present to a director.
Jessie has assembled a well respected core cast whose performances give the play the strength Bennett’s script requires. It’s a lengthy, morally and intellectually challenging story (in part testing my limited memory of High School French) but you don’t notice as the time flies by. That is helped by the obvious enthusiasm and talent of the younger cast members who shine as “the boys”. Simple, but effective, staging and constant changes of pace and mood also help bring the script to life.
If you’ve seen the film the plot is no surprise but live performance and simplicity of limited locations seem to bring more focus on the script. It is verbose, must have taken some learning, and while there are definite leading roles all the cast get a chance to shine, and they do. In typical Bennett style there is love, pain, laughter and loss along with a fair degree of commentary on society and the education system. I must admit wondering about Kiwi actors, Kiwi accents, in these very Northern English roles but there are no fears there. With the help of a brilliant cast the “former bird seed seller” (see his Twitter profile) has done more than justice to a fine play with this polished production. Go and see it, you won’t regret it.
The Peach Theatre Company production The History Boys runs until the 24 October at the Maidment Theatre, Auckland.
George Henare OBE, Annie Whittle, Andrew Ford, Bruce Phillips,
Todd Emerson, Harry McNaughton, Milo Cawthorne, Elliot Christensen-Yule, Paora Durie, Nic Sampson, Sam Berkley and Chris Tempest.
Remaining Shows: Thurs 15th 8pm, Fri 16th 8pm, Sat 17th 8pm, Sun 18th 4pm, Tues 20th 6.30pm, Wed 21st 6.30pm, Thurs 22nd 8pm, Fri 23rd 8pm, Sat 24th 2pm and 8pm
Directed by Jesse Peach - www.twitter.com/jessepeach
PS: I wonder if Jessie has ever seen Dennis Potter’s TV play Blue Remembered Hills? I imagine he’d like it.