Corrie Bond-French (Gloucestershire Echo)

    It is a triumph of casting and performance IT is only just over 10 years old, but it feels as if Alan Bennett's The History Boys has been around for decades. Such is the power of a great play, and this is one of my all time favourites. So I was grateful to take my seat at the opening performance. And I'm still feeling grateful now. I keep revisiting scenes in my head, and smiling to myself. This Sell A Door Theatre production is, to my mind, the gift that keeps on giving. It is quite simply the best production of this play that I have seen (it's my fourth time) and I almost feel as if I should never watch another, so as not to ruin the memory of this one. I'll start with the obvious: Richard Hope as Hector is beyond superlative. He has the emotional fragility and blustery elegiac teaching persona nailed perfectly. I totally believed in Hope's Hector as the misguided teacher, who gives his pupils his heart and soul, then takes an inappropriate step too far in an attempt to make tangible the connection. As a pre-Yewtree play, Bennett's subject matter raises more questions than it can answer, but Hope's Hector does seem in many ways the child, stuck in his role as teacher, attempting an ideological, if eccentric approach to teaching these enquiring minds, surrounded by all-too knowing young adults. I simply cannot imagine anyone bettering Richard Hope as Hector. It is a triumph of casting and performance. Susan Twist plays a perfectly judged brisk and pragmatic Mrs Lintott. Steven Roberts as Posner is brilliantly delicate and sensitive; Patrick McNamee's chirpy but sharp-witted Lockwood is a joy; David Young's Rudge has the perfect level of semi-detached toughness; and Joshua Mayes-Cooper as mouthy joker Timms is also brilliantly struck. There is an impeccable self-assurance in Kedar Williams-Stirling's Dakin. He is the class peacock, his confidence only tried by Irwin's ability to undermine his pedestrian thought processes. Kedar is masterful. And then there's Alex Hope's Scripps. The narrator, Christian and pianist of the piece, Alex is utterly compelling and believable, his depth and inner turmoil evident. I lack space to mention them all, but there is no weak link in this cast chain. Kate Saxon's enlightened adaptation of this rarified world is commendable. It was clear that the Everyman audience were lapping this play up, and that the cast were responsive. Don't let it pass you by. The History Boys runs until Saturday at the Everyman Theatre. Corrie Bond-French