The play takes place in a "sixth-form classroom in a boys' school in the eighties in the north of England..." So, first we had to learn about the general education system in England and what the heck a "sixth form classroom" is. A sixth form class, by the way, is where students study for their entrance exams into universities. The play itself deals with the idea of learning for learning's sake and learning in order to gain entrance into a prestigious university like Cambridge or Oxford.
But in addition to understanding the education system in England and the poetical references scattered throughout the play, the boys (and they are boys, most of them are in their early to mid-twenties) have to learn the dialect, a smattering of french, movie references, and a few songs. This is all before we get up on our feet to learn blocking and lines.
Just for fun, here's a list of some of the literary references in the play:
- A.E. Houseman, Loveliest of Trees, the Cherry Now
- Shakespeare, Othello, King Lear, and Hamlet
- Philip Larkin, The Trees
- J.D. Salinger, The Catcher in the Rye
- W.H. Auden, Letter to Lord Byron
- Wilfred Owen, Dulce et Decorum Est
- Rudyard Kipling
- Franz Kafka, The Trial
That's been a lot of fun, watching these guys re-enact the hokiest scenes from Brief Encounter, The Seventh Veil, and Now, Voyager.
But I love this type of play with things happening every minute and in several different spaces. Call me a total scheduling geek but I get a kick out of figuring out where and when and how everything is going to fit together. And, I love being in the thick of it all.
So, I guess I could say, on this date in History Boys, the circus came to town.