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The History Boys reviewed

PUBLISHED: 18:14 11 March 2010 | UPDATED: 17:01 30 June 2010

REVIEW

The History Boys

The Pavilion Players

Gorleston Pavilion

WHAT a coup for Gorleston and the Pavilion! What a sheer treat for local theatre goers.

REVIEW

The History Boys

The Pavilion Players

Gorleston Pavilion

WHAT a coup for Gorleston and the Pavilion! What a sheer treat for local theatre goers. Not just Alan Bennett's multi award winning play The History Boys but West End star Desmond Barrit heading the cast into the bargain.

This was history repeating itself as the National Theatre and Royal Shakespeare Company actor returned to the colourful role of the Sheffield teacher, Hector. Barrit, the man who, with Helen McDermott, also provides the Pavilion pantomime, was initially invited to give the cast a master class in acting - instead he volunteered to take time out to reprise the role of the schoolmaster with a passion for poetry and ideas and a belief that “all knowledge is precious - regardless of whether it's any use”. It's a part he's played hundreds of times at the National, on tour, in the West End and on Broadway yet he was as fresh, funny and utterly moving as ever.

It is a key role but he didn't steal all the limelight, he graciously added extra special magic to the already spellbinding work of local director, Sheila Pascall. There was no 'them and us' between amateur and professional, it was a faultless, well matched cast and ensemble playing.

Hector's undisciplined teaching methods clash with the petulant head, well played by Stuart Durrant, and new teacher Irwin who was superbly portrayed by Ross Ocego, making his debut on the local amateur scene. Alan Bennett's brilliantly written play about words, life, faith and adolescence so well illustrates the modern tension between inspirational teaching and the dead hand of curriculum and targets. It also explores emotions and relationships.

Hector and his downfall is pivotal to the piece, but its the boys who take centre stage - and what an incredible team of strong local performers they proved to be! Tyler Curtis shone as the troubled Jewish Posner; Alex Youngs' comic timing was spot on while Tom Bailey, Jonnie Bayfield, Craig Catchpole, Alex Read and Alex Fox all deserve top marks for acting. As the knowing, manipulative, good looking Dakin, Lewis Gadsdon was A plus. All credit as well to the only female member of the staff, and cast, Mrs Lintott (Tracy Harris).

Each scene flowed effortlessly into another, aided by good lighting, music and linking video inserts - complete with vintage motor bike - from Tom Mallion.

This was, without a doubt, one of the most satisfying and rewarding evenings I've ever spent at this theatre. The play was staged by the Pavilion to kick start the appeal for a major restoration of this Edwardian building. Productions of such high calibre as this remind us why we need this wonderful venue in the town and why live theatre is so worth supporting.

Tony Mallion


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