Fine Bennett portrayal goes to top of the class

ALAN Bennett s prose slides over the listener like a piece of diaphanous silk. But be aware, running through that silk is an iron-like thread that tackles the big existential questions like What is truth? and How do we interpret the past? Redbridge Stage

ALAN Bennett's prose slides over the listener like a piece of diaphanous silk.

But be aware, running through that silk is an iron-like thread that tackles the big existential questions like What is truth? and How do we interpret the past?

Redbridge Stage Company presented an assured version of Bennett's plaudit-heaped play, The History Boys, at the Kenneth More Theatre last week.

Directed with a keen and experienced eye by Christine Keates, it was well cast and played out on a good set by Grant Alvarez.


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Set in a boys' grammar school in Sheffield in the early 1980s, the play follows the progress of a group of sex-mad boys as they prepare for their Oxbridge entrance exams with the help of three teachers.

Martin Porter gave a confident and convincing performance as Irwin, the rather dry history teacher who encourages his students to ''look for the angle'' in historic events.

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Martin's Irwin was knowing, yet inscrutable, until right near the end, when we began to see flashes of the inner man.

John Chapman reprised the role of Hector, made so famous on stage and film by Richard Griffiths. This was another excellent performance, with John's Hector appearing at times bombastic and at others conflicted.

Liz Calnan was good as deputy head Mrs. Lintott, a seemingly buttoned-up character who gradually lets us see her more ''human'' side.

Dave Bennett was appropriately ridiculous as the uncomprehending headmaster.

The boys' ensemble worked very well, too, particularly in the theatrical vignettes they perform for Hector, who must guess where the scenes come from or pay a fine.

Grant Leat was particularly poignant as Posner, a boy burning with a growing sense of his homosexuality and his affection for the ridiculously attractive (and flirtatious) Dakin, played here with brio and great charm by James Daybell.

Phil Rowlands was convincing as Rudge, the sports jock who battles to get his head around complicated concepts and Thomas Dale did well as the ebullient Scripps.

Paul Jackson, Daniel Mansour and Aaron Richards deftly completed the line-up as Timms, Akhtar and Crowther.

This is a fine piece that played well in Redbridge Stage's hands, and audiences were appropriately appreciative.

- SUE LEEMAN

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