Pete Thorn (Leigh-on-Sea.com)

    A thoroughly good night out Why not support our local Palace Theatre and enjoy a thoroughly good night out at the same time. This week, there is a production of the Alan Bennett’s History Boys play presented by a brand-new touring company which will guarantee to please. It transports the audience back to the 1980’s and is an allegory on Thatcherite values, as culture and knowledge for its own sake give way to the spin and results driven society we experience today. It is the story of 8 bright, funny history students who stay on at school after their A’ Levels in the pursuit of an undergraduate place at either Oxford or Cambridge. As well as following the boy’s education it charts their sexual and mental awakenings as they are groomed and bounced between their maverick English teacher (Richard Hope), who regularly swats his students and fiddles (to use the euphemism of choice) with the more attractive of them outside school, a fresh out of training supply teacher to up their test results (Mark Field), an outnumbered history teacher (Susan Twist), and a headmaster obsessed by results (Christopher Etteridge). Amidst the humour, it is easy to overlook the dark overtones of the play, but the cast have worked brilliantly and have struck the balance just right to create a class of eccentric, cocky boys and the empathy between them and those responsible for their futures. There are some strong performances from Kedar Williams-Stirling as Darkin who creates great tension between himself and the supply teacher Irwin (Mark Field) when the plucky pupil invites the young educator to engage in a sexual activity. Steven Roberts as Posner gives an outstanding performance as does Richard Hope as Hector. This Alan Bennett play, undoubtedly one of his finest, is well worth a visit.