The History Boys

Edinburgh Festival Fringe. Many hundreds of make-shift venues. Endless experiment and energy. Colourful streets packed, sardine-like, with jostling crowds, actors, acrobats, artists, musicians. In between the street acts I went to Alan Bennett's 'The History Boys'. Alan was a working class lad who went to a posh university; an emotionally undeveloped boy who for a long time thought he was gay; a thoughtful and sensitive person who saw through the banality of the politics and politically-correct education of the 90's.

He does not want education to be just about scores, league tables and getting noticed for jobs. Hector, who teaches literature, is dismissed because he won't collude with that approach. For him education is the glory of language and poetry and memory.Only one of the pupils is keen on God. But that turns out to be only a flirtation.

I am touched by this play, but also disappointed. Yes, education - and life - is about beauty as well as function, but it is more still. It is discovering and living all the dimensions of human reality: God in business and sex, art and friendship, values and use of talents, tragedy and community . This play depicts a way of let-down, not a way of life.

Posted at 01:01am on 22nd August 2010
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