Writer: Alan Bennett
Director: Jack Ryder
It’s a busy year for the Wolverhampton Grand, they’re not only producing their own panto this year but 2020 marks the return of an in house drama. Alan Bennett’s The History Boys was the kickstart for many careers such as James Cordon, Dominic Cooper and Russell Tovey and you can’t help but feel that this production will be a launchpad for the Grand and their self produced productions.
Jack Ryder made his directing debut for the Take That musical The Band and it was a smart choice by the Grand to get him on board for The History Boys. Ryder as an ability to create a close bond between a group of actors and that is incremental to this production’s success.
When they are on stage together each of the boys in the History class thrive from the presence of each other, constantly bouncing off each other to create this sense of slick and natural classroom banter. This enhances the humour of the price and drives the production forward.
It’s Ryder’s focus on the role of Posner that anchors the production. Thomas Grant takes on the role and develops the character beautifully. Grant carefully tackles Posner’s personal challenge of exploring himself and where he fits in an education system that pushes the idea that happiness is defined by a good career. Grant’s voice is not only angelic but is underscored by a vulnerability that showcases his own coming of age story. Grant works strongly with Frazer Hadfield as Scribbs and they create some really lovely moments together as Hadfield plays the piano while Grant sings.
It was a genius move by Ryder to mark each transition with a brief snippet of a specially created film. Not only does it allow the Grand to reach out to the local community but it shows this huge bond the boys have with each other, while also further exploring some feelings that the boys feel individually. Posner’s lust for Jordan Scowen’s Dakin was a great example of this. Seeing Posner’s heartbreak as she sees Dakin spend his break time with the Headteacher’s secretary was a bittersweet moment. This use of time between scenes also ensures that the production keeps pace and flows.
The talented cast are joined by a great line up of adult roles too. Ian Redford as Hector and Lee Comley as Irin show off the chalk and cheese of the education system. Comley’s Irwin is ambitious, youthful and full of fresh ideas whereas Redford’s hector has his dark flaws but is far more creative, old school and well experienced educator. Jeffrey Holland’s headteacher is the perfect representation of how a school can get so tied up with academic success, that it forgets about the true meaning of educating. Victoria Carling’s straight talking Mrs Lintott also acts as the listening ear for many while making some very important points about the role of women in history.
It’s top marks for the Wolverhampton Grand as Alan Bennett’s hugely celebrated play is given a new lease of life. Under the director of Ryder this bold and thought proving coming of age play continues to resonate. The cast of varying experience levels come together and ensure that this light hearted production remains popular with audiences
*A complimentary ticket was given in exchange for this review. This value for money rating is based on the ticket price value of £20.50 + £3 Booking Fee. For more info on this value for money rating please visit here: Introducing a new kind of rating