Harrison Roberts, director of The History Boys at The Byre, takes us behind-the-scenes of rehearsal in this interview
What inspired you to stage The History Boys here at St Andrews?
I have always admired Alan Bennett’s work, and as a history student, The History Boys was the most relatable play of all his works. In all seriousness, the entire idea of directing and putting the production on was a dream that was deeply buried in my mind with no intention of ever becoming reality. Nevertheless, with much encouragement from certain individuals and after a swift half hour in Aikman’s Cellar Bar, an ambition was to become a real project. In addition, I did question, if I didn’t do it now, when would I ever another opportunity.
For a play that’s so renowned and familiar, how have you gone about putting your own spin on it?
This is something that always worried me from day one. I thought the best solution to giving our own spin on it was allowing the actors to interpret their characters in their own way and working with their ideas and concepts.
What has been the best thing about staging The History Boys?
I think one of the best things of about the process of staging this production is seeing how it has developed from a mere idea to a full production, and getting to know and work with a most wonderful cast and crew.
And the biggest challenge?
The space and set I believe have been biggest challenges of this production. Like all Byre productions, we are not allowed into the theatre until the performance day, so it has been a question of really trying to imagine and adapt the Barron and various Union Rooms to represent what the stage will look like on the night.
What keeps this play relevant to today’s audiences?
Though the title does suggest that this play is purely dominated by the themes of history, it does explore a variety of themes in great detail, such as the concepts of education, identity, self-awareness and the ideals of truth and fact. That is something I believe as relevant, if even more relevant now, than when the play was originally staged.
Why should people come and see your production?
Of course I am biased in saying that people should come and see this play because it is a wonderful play in its own right. Yet this production has a great cast, which is filled with extremely talented actors who really bring the words and comedy of Alan Bennett to life. Regardless of anyone’s knowledge of History or English, there are aspects of this play that everybody can relate to and take something valuable from.
And finally, please sum up the play in three words.
Sincere, captivating and enriching
Carla van der Sluijs
Photos kindly provided by production team