THEATRE REVIEW - The History Boys, Act II Theatre Company, South Holland Centre, Spalding

Act II Theatre Company's The History Boys with (pictured left to right, from top row) Duncan Riches, Adam Shah, Joe Dickinson, Patrick Taylor, Jack Harrison, Duncan Riches, James Girard and Zac Harlock.
Act II Theatre Company's The History Boys with (pictured left to right, from top row) Duncan Riches, Adam Shah, Joe Dickinson, Patrick Taylor, Jack Harrison, Duncan Riches, James Girard and Zac Harlock.

West End hit transfers well to semi-rural stage

Groundbreaking theatre company Act II marked its tenth anniversary with a one-off outing for Alan Bennett’s hit West End play The History Boys on Saturday.

The play and subsequent film, which turned the likes of James Corden (Gavin and Stacey), Russell Tovey (Being Human) and Dominic Cooper (Fleming) into household names, contains elements of the films Dead Poets Society and Mona Lisa Smile.

Director Charlotte Gernert’s ambitious take on the story of eight boys studying for their Oxbridge entrance exams at Cutlers’ Grammar School in Sheffield under three very different teachers had a number of surprises.

The biggest one was seeing Act II’s usual suspects (James Girard, Kieran Watson and Adam Shah as Crowther, Lockwood and Akthar respectively) given relatively minor roles compared to fresher faces in Patrick Taylor (Dakin), Zac Harlock (Timms) and Jack Harrison (Scripps).

South Holland Centre stage regulars Karl Gernert (Irwin) and Martin Tyrrell (headteacher) were joined by Fiona Parish (Mrs Lintott) and, for a brief spell at the start of the second half Nick Hallissey (Director)

But the real starring role was taken by Dave Wheeler as the far from orthodox general studies teacher Mr Hector, around whom the play seemed to be built.

The History Boys, voted the nation’s favourite play in a poll last year, seemed to fit perfectly with Act II’s self-confessed mission to push theatrical boundaries and show that young people don’t have to be pigeon-holed into the traditional offering of youth theatre.

Once again, Act II demonstrated that you don’t need to go to London for a good night at the theatre.

Review by Winston Brown