11/11/16 - The History Boys at the Altrincham Garrick Playhouse

Last summer, I published a post about Alan Bennett’s The History Boys and how much it means to me.  It is without a doubt my favourite play and when I saw that the Altrincham Garrick Playhouse was hosting a production of it, I knew that I couldn’t miss it.  I saw it at the Theatr Clwyd when I was a teenager and have since had to content myself with rewatches of the film, so the chance to see the material come to life with new vigour was an absolute joy.

Having never been to this theatre before, or even to Altrincham, I wasn’t sure what to expect and I have to say that I was incredibly impressed by pretty much every element of the evening.  Before the play started, we went for an explore of the area and had an utterly beautiful pre-theatre meal at Simon Rimmer's Earle in Hale.

Then it was time to head over to the theatre, which is a really lovely venue.  The minimal and versatile set, consisting of a classroom taking up the majority of the stage with an interchangeable staff room and headmaster’s office represented by a portion of wall that could be flipped and some shuffling of furniture, worked well to complement the action taking place rather than distracting from it.  The only thing I would mention with regards to this is that the scene transitions, consisting of dimmed lights and classic eighties tunes to give us a sense of the period, were a little clunky at times and could have done with a tad more finesse in the actual moving of the furniture – we all know how those school chairs can screech across a floor!

Photo credit goes to Vishal Sharma, taken from Altrincham Garrick Playhouse website

Bennett is particularly verbose and this play contians plenty of wordy monologues and heavy intellectual conversing, a lot for any actor to get their head around.  The company did a brilliant job and were a fantastic team, giving strong performances all round.  The ones which particularly stood out were those which were not carbon copies of the iconic characterisations created by the actors who originated the roles and performed them in Nicholas Hytner’s film adaptation.  Richard Sails really captured Hector’s sweetly na├»ve - if deeply misguided - attempts to connect with his pupils, and Anthony Morris gave a stellar performance as new idealistic teacher, Irwin.  Gabriel Walker was utterly convincing as the cocksure Dakin and David Beeby played Posner with his "spaniel heart" to perfection.  The entire ensemble worked really well together and the team should be incredibly proud of the work they did.  This production really brought life to Bennett’s words and absolutely did justice to the source material.

The cast recreating the iconic original cast photograph.  Taken, with permission, from @dgellis0907

The only downside of the whole experience was a rather giggly group of teenagers on a school trip sat directly behind us.  They took each scene transition as a chance for a chat and were particularly disrespectful and tactless with regards to some of the play’s more sensitive subject matter.  It was a shame because otherwise the entire evening was a pleasure and my sympathies go to the actors, who I imagine can’t help but have noticed considering the fact that the group in question were seated only three rows from the stage. 

I wish I had been able to post this review while the play was still running so that I could encourage anyone who was interested to go and buy tickets, but you should definitely keep an eye on what is coming next to the Altrincham Garrick Playhouse - they have plenty of exciting things coming up and it's always important to support local theatre!

Have you ever had the pleasure of seeing a favourite work brought to life?  Let me know in the comments!

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