Tung's Reviews > The History Boys
The History Boys
by Alan Bennett
by Alan Bennett
Winner of the Tony Award for Best Play in 2006, along with a host of other Tonys, this play focuses on eight students at a London school preparing for the British national entrance exams for Cambridge and Oxford (and other secondary schools), and two of their teachers: Hector is their English/General Studies teacher who inspires the boys to memorize and recite classic literature for the sake of pure knowledge rather than for the purpose of prepping for any one test; Irwin is their newly-hired History teacher who teaches a more structured and calculated style to help the boys pass the national exams. Beneath the tension between the two teachers and their instructional methods and aims lie some complicated relationships: Hector is a pedophile with interest in 7 of the 8 boys; one of the boys (Posner) has a crush on another boy (Dakin); Dakin is infatuated with the new History teacher, Irwin. Overall, I was disappointed. I had heard great things about the play from another reader, and with the host of received Tonys, I was expecting more. My first problem was that there are way too many boys; three of them have well-developed characters and personalities, but the other five seem like irrelevant background. The plethora of characters resulted in some limited development for half of them. My second problem was the length of the play – it feels short. While brevity is the soul of wit, I feel like too much is happening too quickly in too few scenes. For instance, there is one scene where the two teachers teach together, but it’s short; I felt like there should have been several more scenes of the two teachers interacting. The plot development felt rushed, especially with a critical moment late in the play that leads to the play’s conclusion; it felt forced. There’s a number of clever scenes and wordplay (especially one scene that compares World War I to attempted sex), but overall, a bit of a disappointment for me.
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