Friday, September 29, 2006

The History Boys

The lobby of the Warwick Arts Centre was heaving with orientating students and gray-haired old-aged pensioners with a free afternoon as we waited for the doors to open for the National Theatre’s touring production of Alan Bennett’s The History Boys. While we waited, I shelled out £2.50 for a play programme, which is not included in the price of admission. Another difference from our usual American theater experience was that the play was not preceded by an announcement asking members of the audience to switch off their cell phones. Twice during the play loud and insistent ringtones echoed through the auditorium.

The play began with some fast-paced references to the British educational system, and the reputations of various universities and private schools, which drew appreciative laughs from the new university students sitting in front of me, but which were lost on me. But the play was brilliantly written and acted, and filled with thought-provoking and complex discussions about history and the purpose of education. Having just read Jeffrey Hatcher’s The Art & Craft of Playwriting, I paid special attention to the play’s structure and its use of Aristotle’s “six elements”: character, action, ideas, language, music and spectacle. The play delivers brilliantly on all counts.

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