Alan Bennett’s The History Boys is a play deeply concerned with the subjunctive, the grammatical tense that the character of Hector is obsessed with speaking in. It is described as the “mood of possibility”, “what might have been”, and the play teeters around how history is a way of imagining this. It is therefore, despite what the title suggests, heavily interested in the future and what type of theoretical armour students should adopt to prevent them from failure. The crux of the show is the meeting of two teachers believing this armour comes from two wildly different sides of the spectrum, art and prestige.
The Theatre on Chester, located in the heart of Sydney’s North West suburb of Epping, staged The History Boys for their second of three annual plays. The fabulously intuitive President of the company, Carla Moore, directed the production. It was her years of experience as a teacher herself that enabled a drawing out of high schoolisms that made the show so authentic. And seven young actors played the eponymous boys with cocky vulnerability and the type of wide-eyed optimism reserved for thinking about life outside of high school.
Sam Allen, Patrick Varming and David Wiernik performed the play’s three pivotal characters, Dakin, Scipps and Posner. Reflective to their characters, the boys are currently navigating the revolutionary boundary between adolescence and adult life. The History Boys, appropriately, marks their first venture into creative life outside of the comforting realm of high school Drama studies.
The striking thing about the three boys’ performance was their ability to so honestly delve into the heightened neuroses that are unique to each character. They’re the kind of traits I’m sure all teenage boys have a shade of.
Patrick Varming’s Scripps, the mature and devoutly religious of the lot, was approached with casual maturity. It’s this and his non-judgemental attitude, Patrick admitted to me, which make him such a likeable character.
Likewise, Sam Allen portrayed the insufferably confident Dakin perfectly. He muses about how this show’s run, a mammoth fourteen over four weeks, has given him the unprecedented ability to “be organically present in the scene.” He’s fully aware of how cocky Dakin is and relishes the opportunity of being able to be so unapologetically. It shows.
And the lovely David Weirnik, playing a soft, confused Posner with such tenderness that he almost begs to be hugged. Fittingly, it’s Posner’s emotional vulnerability that attracted Weirnik to the character in the first place.
Loyalty, confidence and emotional availability… Something tells me that Bennett was trying to the create the perfect teenager in the amalgamation of these three.
For the boys, their subjunctive lies in their career in the industry. All three became involved with The Theatre on Chester for differing reasons. Patrick, because his drama teacher told him to. Sam, because he respects the quality of productions that the company puts on. And David, because he just really loves the play. They all agree, however, how much it has benefitted their repertoire.
For all those pondering their subjunctive, The Theatre on Chester regularly holds auditions for their shows with information at: http://www.theatreonchester.com.au/auditions/