The History Boys is a play by Alan Bennett, an “unexpected success”, that debuted at the National Theatre in London in May of 2004. It soon after toured around the world, and was made into a movie – all with the original cast.
It is the story of eight bright but under privileged boys attending a grammar school who are studying for their Oxbridge exams in the 80’s. While two of their past teachers are still there helping them get ready for the exams, the school has also hired a new teacher – Irwin – specifically to guide the boys to all get into Oxford or Cambridge. Hector (their English teacher) and Irwin are almost complete opposites as far as teaching styles go, yet both have profound impacts on these boys lives.
While on one hand this is a coming of age story of the eight boys, it is also very much the story of Hector, their slightly eccentric English teacher. Hector is by far one of my two favourite characters in this story. He’s the type of teacher we all wish we could have – minus a few major faults. He taught, not for exams, but for life; he taught boys to appreciate culture in every sense.
“I didn’t want to turn out boys who in later life had a deep love of literature, or who would talk in middle age of the lure of language and their love of words. Words said in that reverential way that is somehow Welsh. That’s what the tosh is for. Brief Encounter, Gracie Fields, it’s an antidote. Sheer calculated silliness.”
Reading the play was so different from watching the movie. I can’t say which one I enjoy more, they are both fabulous in totally different respects. There were extra scenes in this – the play is apparently an hour longer than the movie, so stuff had to have been cut out. Things were changed to suit the screen better when it was adapted. But also, the future of two characters changed, and one of them I’m still not sure how to think of it. It rather came off as quite a bit of a surprise, but I don’t want to spoil it for anyone.
It was amazing how well the actors all portrayed their characters in the movie. While reading the play, I could picture the characters perfectly and hear the way they say every word and phrase. It rather blew my mind and gave me a new appreciation of the film. I wish I had the chance to see the play with the original cast in it; at some point in time I am definitely going to want to see it on stage. As it is, I am going to spend the rest of this evening watching the movie.