History Boys by Alan Bennett.
West Yorkshire Playhouse & Bath Theatre Royal UK tour. Director Christopher Luscombe, Lighting Tim Mitchell.
Cast include; Gerard Murphy, later tour Phillip Franks, Penelope Beamont
Janet Bird's chalky set could be any dowdy grammar school in the vicinity, while the suggestion that the scholarship hopefuls might lower their sights to somewhere like Leeds provokes gales of sardonic laughter.
Director Christopher Luscombe’s staging is deceptively simple, much aided by Janet Bird’s set of utilitarian chairs and tables on a revolve with sketched back-drops to indicate changes in location. That ensures that we are distracted from neither the words nor the performances.
In Janet Bird’s stage design, slow rotations of the central stage piece at appropriate points in the action underscores the revolution of time that is the topic of the boys’ lessons. The illustrious graph paper of every schoolchild’s youth – pale green lines in repetitive squares – figures as the witty base for effective, swift-changing backdrops. Notably, the filmed projections used at the National have been dispensed with entirely, resulting in some snappily paced action.