Saturday, April 30, 2011
Rec. #115: The History Boys
What: Eight bright young men are trying for places at Oxford or Cambridge. Their headmaster brings in a young test-prep coach to give them an edge. Alan Bennett's story explores the fissure between clever test-taking and education for its own sake. The relief here is that the boys are fully aware that it's all just a game, and they do their fair share of manipulating it. They are highly articulate, charming smart-alecks --- occasionally vulnerable, often smug (one in particular is accurately described as "a complacent fuck"), but always believable.
Comparable to: It's really, really, really not Dead Poets Society. Really.
Representative quote: "Do you want us to be thoughtful, sir, or do you want us to be smart?"
You might not like it if: The culture of British boys' schools in the early 1980s --- brought out with Bennett's dry, mocking, expletive-peppered humor --- holds no appeal for you.
How to get it: Rent, buy, borrow. As you do.
Further note of moderate interest: This award-winning play by Alan Bennett ran in London in 2004/2005 before coming to Broadway the following year and being subsequently adapted for film. Most of the movie cast had been with the show since the beginning, and you might now recognize several of the young actors, including Dominic Cooper (An Education), James Corden (Gavin and Stacey), and Russell Tovey (Being Human).