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The History Boys

The History Boys
Written by Alan Bennett
  • Headmaster
  • Hector
  • Irwin
  • Mrs. Lintott
  • Akthar
  • Crowther
  • Dakin
  • Lockwood
  • Posner
  • Rudge
  • Scripps
  • Timms
Date premiered 18 May 2004
Place premiered Royal National Theatre, London
Original language English
Subject An unruly bunch of bright, funny boys in pursuit of sex, sport and a place at university
Genre Drama
Setting 1980s
Official site

The History Boys is a play by British playwright Alan Bennett. The play premiered at the Royal National Theatre in London on 18 May 2004. Its Broadway debut was on 23 April 2006 at the Broadhurst Theatre where 185 performances were staged before it closed on 1 October 2006.

The play won multiple awards, including the 2005 Laurence Olivier Award for Best New Play and the 2006 Tony Award for Best Play.


  • Plot 1
  • Characters 2
  • Context and interpretation 3
  • Productions 4
    • Royal National Theatre casts 4.1
  • Film adaptation 5
  • Awards 6
  • References 7
  • Further reading 8
  • External links 9


The play opens in Cutlers' Grammar School, Sheffield, a fictional boys' grammar school in the north of England. Set in the early 1980s, the play follows a group of history pupils preparing for the Oxford and Cambridge entrance examinations under the guidance of three teachers (Hector, Irwin, and Lintott) with contrasting styles.

Hector, an eccentric teacher, delights in knowledge for its own sake, but the headmaster ambitiously wants the school to move up the academic league table; Irwin, a supply teacher, is hired to introduce a rather more cynical and ruthless style of teaching. Hector is discovered sexually fondling a boy and later Irwin's latent homosexual inclinations emerge.

The character of Hector was based on the schoolmaster and author Frank McEachran (1900–1975).[1]


  • Headmaster (Felix Armstrong) - Headmaster
  • Douglas Hector - English/General Studies teacher
  • Irwin - History teacher; brought in as a special coach
  • Mrs Dorothy Lintott - History teacher
  • Akthar - Pupil; of Asian ancestry, Muslim
  • Crowther - Pupil; does acting as a hobby
  • Stuart Dakin - Pupil; handsome, object of Posner's and Irwin's affection
  • James Lockwood - Pupil; strong opinions
  • David Posner - Pupil; youngest, gay and Jewish
  • Rudge - Pupil; better known for athletic skills than for intelligence
  • Donald Scripps - Pupil; Anglican, plays piano
  • Timms - Pupil; joker, overweight
  • Director on Irwin's television programme (a small role)

Irwin is said to be modelled after Niall Ferguson.[2]

The play includes several non-speaking roles:

  • Make-Up Woman, Production team - on Irwin's television show
  • Three or four unidentified MPs - spoken to by Irwin in opening scene
  • Other male pupils (optional, can help with scene changes and/or play piano if the actor cast as Scripps cannot)
  • Fiona - Headmaster's secretary; object of Dakin's affection/lust. Does not appear on stage in the published text, but was seen in filmed projections featuring Rio by Duran Duran during the original production.

Context and interpretation


Royal National Theatre
The play opened at the Lyttelton Theatre (part of the National Theatre) in London on 18 May 2004, directed by Nicholas Hytner. It played to sell-out audiences and its limited run was frequently extended. Richard Griffiths, James Corden, Dominic Cooper, Russell Tovey and Andrew Knott were among the original cast. On 24 November 2005, the same production was revived once again at the Lyttelton Theatre where it played another successful run. Future Doctor Who actor Matt Smith took on the role of Lockwood in the November revision of the cast. The original cast reunited in the final week in February 2006.
International Tour
Following closing in London, the National Theatre production toured to Hong Kong in February 2006 and featured in the 2006 New Zealand International Arts Festival held in Wellington (February 2006) before playing at the Sydney Theatre in Sydney, Australia from 4 March to 8 April 2006. At each venue, the play was presented to sell-out audiences with the original London cast, including Richard Griffiths; however, Frances de la Tour and Clive Merrison were replaced by Maggie Steed and Malcolm Sinclair until the Broadway season.
The American premiere of the play took place on 23 April 2006 when the same National production opened on Broadway at the Broadhurst Theatre.[3] Originally scheduled to run through 2 September 2006, the run was extended through to 8 October 2006 following huge public demand after the show won the Tony, New York Critics Circle and other American theatrical awards.
West End
Following its Broadway triumph and second UK tour, the play opened at London's Wyndham's Theatre on 2 January 2007, following previews from 20 December 2006. The production closed on 14 April 2007. A further West End run of the play opened once again at the Wyndham's Theatre on 20 December 2007 running through 26 April 2008.
British National Tours
The first nation tour of the production opened in 2005, continuing to play nine regional venues. A second Britain wide tour began on 31 August 2006 at the Birmingham Repertory Theatre, touring to eight further venues. The latest (third) tour launched on 6 September 2007 at the Theatre Royal, Plymouth, before continuing to Truro, Cheltenham, Bath, Dublin, Blackpool, Leeds, Cambridge and Eastbourne before culminating in Newcastle on 10 November 2007.

A new national tour co-produced by the West Yorkshire Playhouse and Theatre Royal Bath commenced in early 2010. This was a new production not produced by the National Theatre and directed by Christopher Luscombe. The cast were as follows:

  • Headmaster: Thomas Wheatley
  • Hector: Gerard Murphy
  • Irwin: Ben Lambert
  • Mrs. Lintott: Penny Beaumont
  • Akthar: Beruce Khan
  • Crowther: Tom Reed
  • Dakin: Kyle Redmond-Jones
  • Lockwood: George Banks
  • Posner: James Byng
  • Rudge: Peter McGovern
  • Scripps: Rob Delaney
  • Timms: Christopher Keegan

After a successful run the WYP/Bath Theatre Royal production is being revived for 2011 with the following cast:

  • Headmaster: Thomas Wheatley
  • Hector: Philip Franks
  • Irwin: Ben Lambert
  • Mrs. Lintott: Penny Beaumont
  • Akthar: Beruce Khan
  • Crowther: Michael Lyle
  • Dakin: George Banks
  • Lockwood: Ryan Saunders
  • Posner: Rob Delaney
  • Rudge: Peter McGovern
  • Scripps: Harry Waller
  • Timms: Christopher Keegan
Other productions
  • The play had its southwest USA premier at Uptown Players, in Dallas, from 3 April-3 May 2009.
  • The first non-professional UK production was staged by Daisy and Rose Theatre Productions at Ermysted's Grammar School in Skipton, North Yorkshire, on 28–30 August 2008.[4]
  • The play had its amateur debut in Melbourne, Australia, performed at the Cromwell Road Theatre from 18–25 July 2009 and directed by Bryce Ives . The first amateur production of the play (text released by Samuel French, Inc.) was performed at the St Helens Theatre Royal, on 19-22 August 2009.
  • The play made its Chicago premiere on 25 April 2009, at TimeLine Theatre.[5]
  • The Netherlands premiere was presented on 1 October 2009 by The Queen's English Theatre Company at the CREA Theater, Amsterdam - featuring an English mother-tongue cast, starring Brian André as Hector and directed by Mark Winstanley. The same production formed the play's premiere at the Edinburgh International Festival in August 2010.[6]
  • An Italian adaptation debuted on 19 September 2010 at Teatro ElfoPuccini in Milan. Directors: Elio de Capitani and Ferdinando Bruni. It won the Premio UBU 2011 as best show.
  • A Catalan adaptation debuted on 24 September 2008 at Teatre Goya in Barcelona. Director: Josep Maria Pou.[7]
  • The Sydney debut will be performed at the Sydney Opera House by the Peach Theatre Company from 8 February – 2 March 2013 and stars John Wood as Hector, Heather Mitchell as Mrs Linnott, Paul Goddard as Head Master, James Mackay as Irwin, Dakin:Lindsay Farris, Scripps: Aaron Tsindos. Crowther: Simon Brook McLachlan. Lockwood: Caleb Alloway. Arthur: James Elliott. Posner:Matthew Backer. Rudge: Gary Brun. Timms: Matt Hardie and is directed by Jesse Peach.[8]

Royal National Theatre casts

Role First cast Second cast Third cast Fourth cast
18 May 2004 to 2005,
23 January 2006 to 1 February 2006
(international tour, film adaptation)
24 November 2005 to January 2006 (UK tour) 31 August 2006 to 14 April 2007 6 September 2007 to 26 April 2008
Headmaster Clive Merrison
Malcolm Sinclair (23 January 2006 to 28 January 2006, international tour until Broadway)
Bruce Alexander William Chubb David Mallinson
Hector Richard Griffiths Desmond Barrit Stephen Moore Desmond Barrit
Irwin Stephen Campbell Moore
Geoffrey Streatfeild (20 December 2004 to 2005)
Tobias Menzies Orlando Wells Tim Delap
Mrs Lintott Frances de la Tour
Maggie Steed (23 January 2006 to 28 January 2006, international tour until Broadway)
Diane Fletcher Isla Blair Elizabeth Bell
Akthar Sacha Dhawan Marc Elliott Marc Elliott Alton Letto
Crowther Samuel Anderson Kenny Thompson Akemnji Ndifornyen Nathan Stewart-Jarrett
Dakin Dominic Cooper Jamie King Ben Barnes (pre February 2007)
Jamie King (post February 2007)
Andrew Hawley
Lockwood Andrew Knott Matt Smith David Poynor Sam Phillips
Posner Samuel Barnett Steven Webb Steven Webb Daniel Fine
Rudge Russell Tovey Phillip Correla Phillip Correla Ryan Hawley
Scripps Jamie Parker Thomas Morrison Thomas Morrison Thomas Howes
Timms James Corden James Cartwright Owain Arthur Danny Kirrane

Film adaptation

In October 2006 a film adaptation of the play was released in the United States, and later in November 2006 in Britain. The film was directed by Nicholas Hytner and featured the original stage cast.



  1. ^ Geoff Andrews, James Klugmann, a complex communist dated 27 February 2012 at, accessed 1 May 2012
  2. ^ "Niall Ferguson: The left love being provoked by me...they think I'm a reactionary imperialist scumbag".  
  3. ^ "The History Boys, Broadway Review, Broadhurst Theatre, New York Theatre Guide - Online". 2011. Retrieved 23 July 2011. 
  4. ^ "Ambitious debut for theatre group".  
  5. ^ Production History at at
  6. ^ "The History Boys". Retrieved 6 August 2014.  (No publisher listed)
  7. ^ Nacional, Teatre. "Teatre Nacional". 
  8. ^ "The History Boys". Emma Collison Publicity. 2008–14. Retrieved 6 August 2014. 

Further reading

  • Robinson, Maren (2009). Study GuideThe History Boys ( 
  • Billington, Michael (19 May 2004). "Review: The History Boys". The Guardian. Retrieved 29 June 2008. 
  • Alan Bennett; Nicholas Hytner (21 June 2004). "The truth behind the History Boys". The Telegraph. Retrieved 29 June 2008. 
  • Bennett, Alan (2004). The History Boys. London: Faber and Faber. p. 96 pp.  

External links

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