The History Boys (Theatre, Royal, Brighton)
When I went to see The History Boys by Alan Bennett at Brighton it was one of the most exciting evenings I have ever had!
As we all squeezed into the foyer waiting for the doors to open, the lovely front of house manager Ian (who’s always good for an extra strong mint if you have a tickly throat) beat a path through the throng followed by none other than David Dimbleby! I hurriedly scribbled down several questions on scraps of paper that might be suitable for future editions of Question Time and stuffed them in his pockets, so I hope he found them as he scrabbled for a hankie in the dark.
The last time I was in a theatre and had to scrabble for a hankie it was when all the lights went out in a production of Agatha Christie’s Black Coffee, starring Robert Powell (who played Jesus on TV). Had it not been for that strange twist of fate, more mysterious even than one of the great crime writer’s mysteries, I would never have found those two old orange Revels, a 3d postage stamp, and an unused nail file which I suppose I could have used to strike a match to help with the lighting problems but by the time I’d thought of it Robert Powell was on stage telling us to “beggar off ‘ome” as he did it as Poirot.
I’m sure David Dimbleby would have no reason to question the excellence of the Sell A Door production of The History Boys as it was excellent. I have to say I didn’t really recognise any of the actors apart from the chap playing Richard Griffiths, as I think he was once in a TV ad for rice, though someone did mention that one of the boys used to be in Hollyoaks but I’ve never really gotten into that as it’s set in Chester and I once had an unpleasant experience under the Eastgate clock.
The play is set sometime in the 1980s when eight grammar school students study some extra history in an amusing way in the hope of gaining an Oxbridge or Cambridge university place. I really liked the way songs were used, both musically between the scenes and also in them when some of the boys sang. I enjoyed singing along to “Sing as we go” by Gracie Fields and it was very moving when the boys sang “Bye bye blackbird” after someone died, but I won’t reveal who to add a sense of mystery, although of course this isn’t a whodunit like an Agatha Christie play, which I’ve seen quite a lot of, or detective novel, so no need to go along with your deerstalkers and magnifying glasses!
Another very exciting thing was that Harry Potter was in the cast! He played a young teacher and wore big glasses just like in the books and the films. I kept expecting him to whip out a wand and shout “Expelliarmus!” but he didn’t, which was rather disappointing. Funnily enough I had some Bertie Bott’s Every Flavour Beans in my bag in case of emergency and would have offered them round had he done anything magical but it wasn’t to be.
I went home wondering if any of my questions would appear on this week’s Question Time, which would be good as that satirist Amanda Iannuccioci is on it so I’ll be watching as I really enjoyed The Thick of It, which starred Peter Capaldi, who now plays Doctor Who on TV. Maybe David Dimbleby will mention being waved through the crowds by Ian at Brighton, which would add a real touch of realism.