Globe Theatre, 104 London St, Dunedin

29/05/2014 - 07/06/2014

Production Details

By Alan Bennett

Alan Bennett’s The History Boys premiered at the National Theatre in London in May 2004. It was an immediate hit.  

The play revolves around a group of ridiculously bright and precocious young men who have returned to their old grammar school in the north of England to prepare for the most glittering of academic prizes – a place at either Oxford or Cambridge, studying history. They expect to be coached by their usual teachers, the eccentric, expansive and eclectic English master and their much more down to earth instructor in history. 

But the Headmaster is determined to use these clever boys to pull his underperforming institution up in the school ranking system. He brings in a ‘trouble shooter’ teacher. A young novice. This does not go down well and so the battles begin …

While on one level this play is an anarchic, raucous romp through late adolescence, sparkling with the comedy and wit, it deals with deeper themes: sexual politics, manipulation, and the age old debate of Destiny versus Chance. It asks how history happens, or why it does. The History Boys also questions the methods, aims, and especially the ethics, of the modern education system.

Thursday 29 May to Saturday 7 June 7.30 pm.
Sunday 1 June 2.00 pm.
No show Monday 2 June


The Boys
Akthar:  Zac Nicholls
Dakin:  James Tregonning
Lockwood:  Reuben Hilder
Posner:  Jo Secher
Rudge:  Nick Tipa
Scripps:  Oscar Macdonald
Timms:  Elliot Phillips

The Staff 
Dorothy Lintott:  Denise Casey
Hector:  Craig Storey
Irwin:  Andrew Brinslie-Pirie
Headmaster:  Warren Chambers    

Theatre ,

Exuberance, fluid movement, great timing

Review by Barbara Frame 01st Jun 2014

There are seven of them: seniors at an undistinguished school whose status-driven headmaster hopes they can make it to Oxford or Cambridge. Intellectually sophisticated and gleefully bright, they owe their erudition to Hector, an eccentric teacher nearing retirement, whose largely unfocused teaching emphasises learning for its own sake.

Enter Irwin, a beginning teacher who thinks it’s all about glib superficiality, passing exams, getting noticed and eventually making money. 

Alan Bennett’s The History Boys is one of the best and most popular of this century’s new British plays. Its themes are education (is it just about getting jobs?) and history (what is truth, and does it matter?). It celebrates the roles of culture and the arts, the power of the incisive and analytical mind, and the development of confident, mature adults. The Globe’s production, directed by Keith Scott, continues the theatre’s recent run of exceptionally good productions.

The capable, 11-strong cast perform with exuberance, fluid movement and great timing. Especially memorable, and very funny, is a scene where a French lesson rapidly turns into a French farce. Special mention must be made of Oscar Macdonald as the cheerfully, perversely religious Scripps; Globe newcomer Jo Secher as slow-developing, moony Posner; and Denise Casey as Mrs Lintott, coolly cynical history teacher and the play’s only woman.

In a week in which the earnings prospects for New Zealand arts graduates have been revealed to be poor, and the Tertiary Education Minister has encouraged young people to prefer science and maths because of higher salary expectations, The History Boys provides a different and more humanistic perspective.

Thursday night’s capacity audience loved it. Although it’s about schoolboys, the play has language and content unsuitable for children and younger teenagers. For everyone else, I recommend it.


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Engaging, likeable examination of complex issues

Review by Brenda Harwood 30th May 2014

The clever, high-spirited young men of Alan Bennett’s The History Boys are brought to life by a group of equally clever young performers at the Globe Theatre. 

A packed and supportive opening night audience were kept entertained by high jinks, music, poetry, and quick-fire dialogue, in this fast-moving show. An ensemble piece, where the conversational ball is passed rapidly from one to the other and the historical, classical, literature and poetic references come thick and fast, The History Boys requires sure hands and nimble tongues, which the Globe’s keen young cast mostly achieves.

The History Boys follows seven ridiculously bright and precocious young men, who have returned to their old grammar school in the north of England to prepare for the entrance exams for Oxford and Cambridge.

Pushing them along are eccentric ‘general studies’ teacher Hector (Craig Storey), young up and coming teacher Irwin (Andrew Brinsley-Pirie), the school’s kudos-hungry headmaster (Warren Chambers), and stern history mistress Mrs Lintott (Denise Casey).

Performances are generally solid from these ‘senior’ cast members, helping to balance and harness the energy of their young charges. In the demanding role of Hector, whose complex and not-entirely-appropriate relationship with the boys forms the heart of the play, Storey is generally good, although at times his performance needs a little more energy.  

The life and soul of The History Boys is in its seven quick-witted, talented young men, and here director Keith Scott and stage manager Christine Johnstone have moulded seven young Dunedin actors – some making their Globe debuts – into an engaging, entertaining unit.

It’s difficult to pick a stand-out from among the ‘boys’ – James Tregonning (Dakin), Jo Secher (Posner), Oscar Macdonald (Scripps), Nicholas Tipa (Rudge), Reuben Hilder (Lockwood), Elliot Phillips (Timms) and Zac Nicholls (Akthar – as they work together so consistently well. 

Along with keeping the often complex dialogue moving along, they also show an impressive recall for poetry and historical facts, as well as a talent for music.

Stage business is also well done, with the large cast making effective use of the functional, well laid-out set.

The result is an engaging, likeable show that keeps the laughs coming while examining complex issues such as the nature and purpose of relationships, education and even history itself. Recommended. 

The History Boys continues at the Globe Theatre until June 7.


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