The History Boys (West Yorkshire Playhouse, 11th February 2010)

It is interesting that it is Alan Bennett’s image which is on the publicity materials for the new West Yorkshire Playhouse production of  The History Boys.  Normally, publicity materials give a feel of the production, can portray images of actors, but do not tend feature the image of the playwright, even Shakespearean productions.  However, for me, the image of Bennett does encompass the overall feel of this production.  In my view the production feels as events are projected through a Bennett lens in that they are nostalgic and homely Yorkshire working class with a touch of palatable tragedy.  The History Boys is set in the early 1980s, but there is a timeless feel, except for the snippets of early eighties electronic hits played between the scenes.  I like the way this play captures the lives of a group of young men at a crossroads point in their lives.  The play deals really well with sexual and intellectual awakening and embeds three different approaches to education in the characters of the three teachers.  The set is not  over cluttered and the revolving stage is used to great effect.  This cast interact really well together and this is an excellent production.

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Reviews and Previews

The History Boys (West Yorkshire Playhouse) reviewed in The Guardian
The History Boys (West Yorkshire Playhouse) reviewed…

A Ghost Walk (York Theatre Royal, 10th February 2010)

Ghost walks are popular in the city of York.  The walks combine performance and a tour guide experience.  The ingenious Belt Up Theatre take this tried and tested format and added a twist to it.  The performance starts from York Theatre Royal and moves onto the street of York.  The night that I went is was snowing lightly and the footpaths were a little icy, so I set off with some trepidation.  As the walk progressed, I found I was really enjoying walking round the streets of York on a winter evening.  This wasn’t something, I’ve done very often and you do see the city  in a different way.  The performance consists of the usual stories told outside particular spots.  However, Belt Up Theatre bring a little extra in the characterisation of the ghost walk leader.  I don’t want to go into details and spoil the experience for those who haven’t been on the walk yet, but to say this is another excellent Belt Up performance, which asks the audience to work hard and participate to get the most out of it.

Men of the World (York Theatre Royal, 9th February 2010)

In Men of the World, I think John Godber has wonderfully captured  the atmosphere of the coach trip, in this case to the Rhine.  He manages to pick up the conversations of a set of characters who travel overland from their Yorkshire homes to Germany.  What he does well is portray the humour in lovely one liners.  Men of the World  follows the format of Godber’s Bouncers where three actors play a range of characters.   In this case the ‘men’ were actually two men and a woman, and much of the humour came from the fact that they were playing people of either sex.  I think there are some wonderfully funny moments in this production.   However, it is the drivers which are the most rounded characters.  The problem I had with the other characters was that they were too stereotypical and even though there were comments towards the end of the play that all the passengers were lovely decent people, it didn’t really change the fact that they had been played as comic types.  Personally, I found some of the characterisation was a little uncomfortable such as the landlords of the Bed and Breakfast and Martin the over mothered young man.  

With Godber’s work, you know what you’re going to get.  On the evening, I went to do see this production, the audience clearly loved it.

Three Sisters (Lyric Hammersmith, 30th January 2010)

The Lyric Hammersmith’s  production took Checkov’s Three Sisters partly out of its original context and placed it in a modern setting, which in itself didn’t necessarily demonstrate that Chechov’s play deals with universal themes, because some of the dilemmas in the drama are particularly relevant to the period in which the play is set.  I felt that the it was the relationships between characters and the emotion came across well in this production.  The stage and backstage boundaries became blurred, and I felt that the stage felt cluttered in an interesting way.  In the second half the second half props and scenery was brought together to create an attic room and a very claustrophobic feel, which reflected on the relationship of the sisters and those around them.  

Apart from feeling that  the music at the interval was rather jarring,  I thought this was an enjoyable production, with some strong performances from Poppy Miller, Romola Gari and Clare Dunn.

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