Freelance journalist with a passion for theatre, the arts, food and books.
Alan Bennett comedy play returns to West Midlands
Alan Bennett's The History Boys is a modern classic, famous for launching the careers of stars like James Corden, Russell Tovey and Dominic Cooper. Now Wolverhampton Grand Theatre has chosen the play as it pushes forward with making its own productions.
The History Boys is the third in-house production for the Grand and they've pulled in the big guns with director Jack Ryder, who was behind award-winning productions of Calendar Girls and The Full Monty, along with The Band.
There's also Hi-De-Hi! actor Jeffrey Holland - a regular at the Grand after Brassed Off! and last year's panto - and Ian Redford as experienced hands in the play, running at Wolverhampton Grand Theatre until Saturday February 22.
Following an unruly bunch of bright sixth-form boys leading up to their Oxbridge interviews and A-level exams, Bennett's famous wit is clear from the off-set.
It's as much about the boys' adolescent self-discovery as the clash of styles between maverick English teacher Hector (Ian Redford) and the young precocious supply teacher Irwin (Lee Comley).
Lee Comley, Jeffrey Holland and Ian Redford lead the cast
Thomas Grant shows exceptional skills as a singer along with acting beautifully the challenging role of lovesick Posner, struggling with his sexuality.
Frazer Hadfield is a likeable Scripps, who narrates much of the piece and also impresses tinkling the ivories, while Jordan Scowen and Dominic Treacy give both Dakin and Timns a brazen confidence that make them stand out on stage.
The focal point is always going to the two opposing teachers, so central to the plot. Ian Redford hits exactly the right note as avant garde Hector. He manages to make the teacher understandable, despite the character being so worryingly misguided.
While Lee Comley is an enthralling Irwin, a tense bundle of angst but also shamelessly ambitious and ruthless in his approach to history.
The Grand Theatre returned to its rich history of producing its own theatre after a 40 year gap with Brassed Off in 2017. With this vibrant, exciting The History Boys, it reaffirms why the theatre should continue down this path.
This new The History Boys wonderfully combines comedy with live music and video for a scintillating laugh out loud show.