The History Boys

For the film, see The History Boys (film).
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

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.


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]


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

The play includes several non-speaking roles:


The Headmaster, in a 2014 production by OVO theatre company, St Albans, UK
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, Sacha Dhawan 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 national 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 third tour launched on 6 September 2007 at the Theatre Royal, Plymouth, before continuing to Truro, Cheltenham, Bath, Dublin, Blackpool, Leeds, Cambridge and Eastbourne, culminating in Newcastle on 10 November 2007.

A fourth 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

Royal National Theatre casts

Role First castSecond castThird castFourth 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
HeadmasterClive Merrison
Malcolm Sinclair (23 January 2006 to 28 January 2006, international tour until Broadway)
Bruce AlexanderWilliam ChubbDavid Mallinson
HectorRichard GriffithsDesmond BarritStephen MooreDesmond Barrit
IrwinStephen Campbell Moore
Geoffrey Streatfeild (20 December 2004 to 2005)
Tobias MenziesOrlando WellsTim Delap
Mrs LintottFrances de la Tour
Maggie Steed (23 January 2006 to 28 January 2006, international tour until Broadway)
Diane FletcherIsla BlairElizabeth Bell
AktharSacha Dhawan Marc Elliott Alton Letto
CrowtherSamuel AndersonKenny ThompsonAkemnji NdifornyenNathan Stewart-Jarrett
DakinDominic CooperJamie KingBen Barnes (pre February 2007)
Jamie King (post February 2007)
Andrew Hawley
LockwoodAndrew KnottMatt SmithDavid PoynorSam Phillips
PosnerSamuel BarnettSteven WebbDaniel Fine
RudgeRussell ToveyPhillip CorrelaRyan Hawley
ScrippsJamie ParkerThomas MorrisonThomas Howes
TimmsJames CordenJames CartwrightOwain ArthurDanny Kirrane

A majority of the original cast reunited for the National Theatre 50th Anniversary special and performed the French lesson scene, with Posner's dialogue given to Akthar (as Samuel Barnett was performing in Richard III/Twelfth Night on Broadway at the time) and playwright Alan Bennett taking over as Hector from the late Richard Griffiths.[10]

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". The Guardian. 11 April 2011. Retrieved 14 April 2011. The character of Irwin in Alan Bennett's play, The History Boys – a pushy, contrarian teacher who becomes a TV historian – is modelled on Ferguson...
  3. "The History Boys, Broadway Review, Broadhurst Theatre, New York Theatre Guide – Online". 2011. Retrieved 23 July 2011.
  4. "Ambitious debut for theatre group". Craven Herald & Pioneer. Retrieved 7 August 2009.
  5. Production History 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

External links

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