Footlights making history in a real Grand style

The History Boys
The History Boys

The History Boys -

Lancaster Grand Theatre

It’s about a year ago that Footlights, the resident acting company and owners of 
Lancaster’s Grand Theatre, made a significant change to their outlook and repertoire by staging Willy Russell’s Blood Brothers with a young and 
highly-capable cast and 
production team.

That success was followed last week by their production of Alan Bennett’s multiple award-winning play of 2004, The 
History Boys.

Powerfully and convincingly directed by Marian Cox and her assistant Ellie Singleton, and using a straightforward yet flexible set, the action followed the fortunes of a group of eight pupils at a 1980s Northern boys’ grammar school from ‘A’-levels right through to their Oxbridge applications.

Also central to the narrative were the maverick teachers Hector, played by Peter Sampson), Irwin (Matthew Hankin) and Mrs Lintott (Christine Burn), under the ineffectual guidance of the headmaster (Stuart Langhorne).

But, on this occasion at least, they were not to be the focus of the tremendous dramatic 
impact of this production.

Credit is, of course, due to Bennett’s sparkling, erudite and earthy dialogue; but the real triumph lay in the way the eight lads marvellously demonstrated the natural, disruptive and witty as well as intelligent rapport between them.

Each snide comment, pointed quip and flippant throwaway came across both clearly and sotto voce.

So true to life was this that the whole effect was to 
transport me back vividly to my own learning and teaching 
experiences.

Seemingly impromptu 
naturalism such as this is rarely seen on stage.

Harry Powell (Posner) on the dictionary and Nick Haughton (Dakin) on the make deserve particular mention for their characterisations.

With superb diction, good staging and evocative movement, Bennett’s masterly piece came across, with only a couple of minor flaws, as a wonderfully moving show.

After this second youthful success, Footlights must 
continue to develop its younger performing potential; it’s the only way forward for any arts group.

by Michael Nunn