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Last Updated: Wednesday, 11 October 2006, 09:02 GMT 10:02 UK
History Boys look to the future
By Neil Smith
Entertainment reporter, BBC News

The original stars of The History Boys look back at two-and-a-half years that have seen them perform Alan Bennett's acclaimed drama on stage, radio and film.

The young stars of The History Boys
The film reunites the stage play's eight original 'history boys'
When Richard Griffiths and the rest of the cast of The History Boys began rehearsing Alan Bennett's play in early 2004, they could hardly have imagined it would lead to a glitzy royal film premiere in London's Leicester Square.

But as last week's event proved, this critically acclaimed story of Northern grammar school boys preparing for their Oxbridge entrance exams has had a charmed life.

Since opening at London's National Theatre in May 2004, it has been performed in Hong Kong, New Zealand and on BBC Radio 3.

It also became the toast of Broadway, winning six prizes at the 2006 Tony Awards as well as a host of lesser awards.

With the end of the play's New York run and the film version arriving in UK cinemas, the time has come to move on to other things and - to quote Griffiths' character - "pass the parcel" to other performers.

"It really is the end of an era," says 59-year-old Griffiths, who plays avuncular general studies teacher Hector.


"Nearly 500 shows, every one a full house. Amazing, isn't it?

Nicholas Hytner, Alan Bennett and Richard Griffiths
Richard Griffiths (r) reprises his role as avuncular teacher Hector
"The management did very well out of it. I hope the film does well too."

"It's a fantastic way to end an incredible journey," agrees actor Samuel Barnett, who plays the youngest 'history boy', Posner.

"I almost don't think of it as a movie. It's a celebration of three years of work."

With Nicholas Hytner once more in the director's chair, the dream scenario is that the film version enjoys the same success as 1994's The Madness of King George.

Like The History Boys, that piece began as an Alan Bennett play directed by Hytner that premiered at the National.

For actor Dominic Cooper, though, the film in which he appears as teenage lothario Dakin has a more sentimental significance.


"The bad thing about theatre is it's just a memory in the minds of the few people who saw it," he tells the BBC News website.

"With this, we've got it forever."

Nigel Hawthorne and Helen Mirren in The Madness of King George
Alan Bennett's play The Madness of George III was also filmed
With a role in forthcoming British comedy Starter for Ten, Cooper is already seeking fresher pastures.

Still, he and his fellow cast members regard the stage production of The History Boys currently touring the UK with a degree of ambivalence.

"It's odd having to hand over the role," he concedes. "We were the characters from the beginning and Alan developed them around us."

"I'm sad about leaving the play behind, but I'm more sad about the fact I won't get to work with these people again," adds Barnett.

Actor Jamie Parker, though, takes a more pragmatic view in keeping with his role as loquacious pupil Scripps.

"Nothing will get you straining at the leash creatively more than doing the same material for this amount of time," he says.

The History Boys film is released on 13 October. The play's touring production is currently at the New Theatre in Hull.

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