Review: The History Boys, Sheffield Crucible

ALAN Bennett’s award-winning comedy drama ‘The History Boys’ is often associated with the late Richard Griffiths.

Friday, 31st May 2013, 11:04 am
The History Boys, Sheffield Crucible

As the eccentric teacher Hector, he seemed to make the “lessons in life” hit all his own, whether on stage in London or New York, or in the 2006 big-screen film version.

But now there’s a worthy successor to this life-affirming role with Matthew Kelly giving a standout performance as the unorthodox English master in director Michael Longhurst’s winning staging at Sheffield’s Crucible Theatre.

There, until Saturday week (8th June), the stage is turned into a gym-cum-classroom as Hector guides his potential university candidates through lessons that are not always on the national curriculum.

These include a seduction scene in a brothel acted out in French, singing Gracie Fields songs or guessing film titles from snatches of dialogue.

This off-syllabus stuff does not fit in with the aspirations of the headmaster (Nicholas Day) who enlists the services of a newly qualified teacher, Irwin, to rack up the school’s position in the national league tables and get his students into Oxbridge.

Irwin played by Edwin Thomas, giving a promising start in his professional stage debut, tries to focus his students’ attentions towards the university interview, something that is in complete contrast to Hector’s ramshackle approach to the teaching timetable and his young charges, who were as energetic in class as they were in positioning the head’s glass-fronted study on stage in designer Chloe Lamford’s versatile set.

Further details of ticket prices (£10 to £21) and performance times for the show, which runs until Saturday 8th June, can be obtained from the Crucible box office on 0114 249 6000, or online at

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