The History Boys at The Kings Theatre

Richard Hope as maverick teacher Douglas Hector in The History Boys.
Richard Hope as maverick teacher Douglas Hector in The History Boys.
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When The History Boys debuted in 2004, it was hailed as one of Alan Bennett’s best plays and from next Wednesday it is coming to the Kings Theatre.

It is a work of comedy and drama, much of which centres around the play’s maverick teacher Douglas Hector.

During the play, he takes pupils for a ride on his motorbike and sexually abuses them.

In the production, Hector is played by Richard Hope. While Richard acknowledges the subject is more taboo than ever, he says it is true of the period.

‘It is quite interesting playing Hector today rather than when the play came out 10 years ago, because we are now in the post-Saville era and our attitudes have hardened to teachers of that ilk.

‘You have a character who now you think behaves in a totally unacceptable fashion, but in the 1980s it happened a lot.

I like uneccessary facts, facts that make you feel – love, death, life. My character Hector makes you face the bigger questions.

Richard Hope

‘In many of the Q&A sessions after the show people have said they had teachers like that.

‘For me, the wonderful thing playing Hector is that he is an inspiring teacher.’

Set in 1983, the play tells the story of Cutlers’ Grammar School, Sheffield, a fictional boys’ grammar school. A group of history pupils are preparing for the Oxford and Cambridge entrance examinations under the guidance of three teachers – Hector, Irwin and Lintott – all with contrasting styles.

‘There is a sort of battle between the old style of teaching and the new style,’ says Richard. ‘The old style proper is embodied in Lintott who just teaches facts but with no interpretation.

‘The new style is Irwin – you put a spin on the facts, and if you can lie, that’s good.

‘Hector couldn’t care less. He inspires his students to go beyond the syllabus and to learn things for life.

‘He says early on: “All knowledge is precious, whether or not it serves the slightest human use.”

‘I like uneccessary facts, facts that make you feel – love, death, life. My character Hector makes you face the bigger questions.’

Hector’s lessons are off the wall.

‘One scene is completely in French, which as an audience you actually completely understand because it is a very physical and visual scene. That is Bennett as his best – it is a wonderful scene to do.’

The History Boys is at the Kings Theatre, Southsea from April 22-25 at 2pm and 7.30pm.

Tickets: £20-29, visit kingsportsmouth.co.uk or call (023) 9282 8282.