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Photo Credit :: Cold Open
Arts & Entertainment
The History Boys at Clearview Chelsea Cinema
by Mark Thompson & Robert Doyle
November 17, 2006 
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Given the classrooms in The History Boys, it’s small wonder certain Englishmen recall their adolescent schooling with something akin to lust. What with serenading each other with Rodgers and Hart ballads, and quoting W.H. Auden and Rupert Brooke—and all without shame for their same-sex flirtations, well, frankly, who wouldn’t yearn to return to such halcyon days?

Alan Bennett’s play, now a film with the original cast and director, recalls an almost-mythical place in Eighties Thatcherite England where the threat of Clause 28 (which banned the “promotion” of homosexuality in any British classroom) and the specter of AIDS never intrude upon a rosy-eyed and purple-prosed vision of the world. The boys in Bennett’s world are nearly a world apart from Nathan, the nymphomaniacal student in Queer As Folk: more ambitious, more driven, and seemingly more entitled, and, therefore, far more likely to remain connected to their schools than to the nightclubs they might ultimately frequent.

Somewhat archetypal (the fat boy, the Lothario, the shy one, the poor one), each of Bennett’s boys, nonetheless, achieves a kind of individuality, and particularly when alongside their teachers, wonderfully played by Richard Griffiths and Frances de la Tour. As much about pedagogy as it is about the boys’ pursuit of acceptance at Oxbridge, Bennett’s work highlights the myriad ways in which knowledge is accrued—and the unquestionable import of good teaching to the final result.