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Last Updated: Monday, 12 June 2006, 13:04 GMT 14:04 UK
High marks for The History Boys
Richard Griffiths and Samuel Barnett as Hector and Posner. Photo credit: Ivan Kyncl
Richard Griffiths (l) won the best actor Tony for his role as Hector

The History Boys, about a group of switched-on sixth-form students in pursuit of an Oxbridge place, opened in 2004 to rave reviews.

Set in a northern Grammar school in Margaret Thatcher's Britain, Alan Bennett uses the dynamics of staffroom personalities and the turbulence of puberty to ask questions about the role of education.

Intense, intelligent, immediate and packed with inspired one-liners, the play - which is partly based upon Bennett's experiences as a teacher - has won a plethora of prizes since it opened in May 2004.

As well as five Drama Desk awards in New York, it also won best play at the Evening Standard Theatre Awards, the Critics' Circle and Laurence Olivier Awards.

Reputation

Actor Richard Griffiths has also been individually lauded for his role as the eccentric and well-loved English teacher Hector.

It also stars Stephen Campbell Moore as the slick results-driven supply teacher Irwin, and Frances De La Tour, who won a Tony for her role as traditionalist Mrs Lintott.

Jamie Parker (Scripps), Dominic Cooper (Dakin) and James Corden (Timms) Photo credit: Ivan Kyncl
The History Boys centres on a group of sixth-form students

The play originally started out at the National Theatre in London and moved to Broadway's Broadhurst Theatre in April this year.

The original line-up quickly helped to cement the play's solid reputation as art meets popular entertainment on the other side of the Atlantic.

But despite the play's obvious qualities, The Times theatre critic Benedict Nightingale said it was "remarkable" the very English play had been a hit in the US.

Even the New York edition of Time Out magazine published a glossary of English terms to prevent confusion for audiences.

"It seems so English in many ways and it surprises me a great deal that it has been such a success. More fool me," Nightingale said.

"I had some US students over here recently and I did not tell them to go and see it as I thought it was too English.

Frances De La Tour (Mrs Lintott) and Stephen Campbell Moore (irwin). Photo credit: Ivan Kyncl
Frances De La Tour was named best actress

"But it obviously touches something. It must say something that people want to hear.

"It has become a "must-see" among theatre-goers in New York and it could not have done that if it had just been funny, clever and with a good cast - all of which it has - there must also be something else.

"Bennett writes about the dumbing-down of culture and the way education is no longer about broadening and deepening the self, but about getting the right grades and manipulating the system.

"I think it is a quality, intelligent and witty play, but not what you would expect on Broadway.

"It doesn't even have a 'name' to carry it. I doubt if the US audiences have heard of Richard Griffiths or Frances De La Tour.

"But I think its success will give encouragement for more serious plays to take a chance on Broadway. Let's hope so."


SEE ALSO
History Boys and Valli top Tonys
12 Jun 06 |  Entertainment
Bennett play nominated for Tonys
16 May 06 |  Entertainment
Broadway boasts record new season
01 Jun 06 |  Entertainment
History Boys wins best play award
22 May 06 |  Entertainment
Actor's reprimand wins applause
23 Nov 05 |  London
Bennett play takes theatre prizes
02 Feb 05 |  Entertainment
Alan Bennett's winning words
09 May 04 |  Entertainment

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