The History Boys
What a wonderfully warm and at times hilariously funny comic drama Alan Bennett has authored in his new play “The History Boys”. His subject is that theme so beloved of Thatcherism and New Labour, “Education, Education, Education” as Tony Blair annunciate in Labour’s 1997 election pledge.
The story concerns a group of teenage boys who are being prepared for their Oxbridge entrance exam. The headmaster is obsessed with school league-table results, and wants his boys to go to Oxford. To that end he employs Oxford graduate Irwin to teach the boys how to succeed in their history exam.
However, not all the teachers share the headmaster’s functional approach to education. The ponderous and cordially eccentric teacher of ‘General Studies’ Hector, is far more interested in feeding the boys souls rather than filling them with empty facts. “Exams are the enemies of education” Hector proclaims, and he tells the boys that their A-level results are their “emblems of conformity”.