Monday, August 22, 2011

The History Boys – Sunday Independent Review

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A collection by Neal McKenna 

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The History Boys

The History Boys is probably one of the most ­provocatively funny debates ever ­written about what education is for and who is entitled to it. Here, playwright Alan Bennett distributes ­various aspects of himself among his imaginary students  ­diffident, witty, glib, theatrically camp, agonizingly repressed  all reconciling themselves to the differences between ‘being thoughtful and being smart.’
The action takes place at Cutlers’ Grammar School, Sheffield, a fictional boys’ school in the north of England. Set in the early 1980s, the play follows a group of eight clever students in pursuit of sex, sport, and admission into Oxford or CambridgeThe thing is, these lads lack that certain urbane, middle–to–upper class sophistication, but their Headmaster (Michael Richard) has formulated a cunning plan to erase these inequalities as his brightest and best vie for entrance into the schools guaranteed to change their lives.
The story begins with the boys preparing for the Oxbridge entrance examinations under the guidance of three teachers  Hector, Irwin and Mrs. Lintott  each plying sharply contrasting educational styles. Hector (Graham Hopkins) and Lintott (Louise Saint–Claire) are long–time teachers at Cutlers’ while Irwin (Theo Landey) is the interloper with his brash, cynical concepts and ruthless style of teaching. The two male teachers soon become rivals for the hearts and minds of the boys. Packed with superb one–liners, it is a provocatively hilarious exploration of the anarchy of adolescence and the politics of education. 
Near the beginning of the play, the boys do a role–play entirely in French  a riotously farcical enactment of a Gallic brothel. But their long–time teacher, Hector, is really supposed to be teaching them English, not theatre or Français. Here, director Alan Swerdlow has done an excellent of job pulling the art of mime and spot–on comic timing out of his young actors. They had the audience howling all the while never speaking a word of English. And this rollicking tableau is only ended when the Headmaster enters the room, with new teacher Irwin in tow  discovering one of the students in the middle of the room sans pants.
The plotline explores the boys’ relationships, not only with each other, but with their History and General Studies teacher, Hector and the much younger Mr. Irwin. The new teacher primarily has been brought in to explain how to fill in University entrance forms and how to react during their placement interviews. In other words, he is there to teach them the fine art of “bullshitting.”
In the classroom scenes  Jannie Swanepoel’s semi–box set could be any ordinary grammar school in England  the differing teaching styles of both men are clearly demonstrated. Hector teaches passion; how to express one’s feelings on a subject and the absolute love of it. In contrast, Irwin tells the boys to be more detached from the points they are debating; to be somewhat matter of fact about it. His strongest advice is to mostly steer clear of anything Hector has told them. It is only when, forced by the Headmaster, that both styles are taught together. This is when the teachers discover their divergent approaches actually work well together.
The History Boys is a play dealing with taboo subjects and is precariously easy to scuttle. Aside from near perfect comic timing, it requires charm and a light touch. Luckily, this production has plenty of all three. So, let it be known Cutlers’ Grammar School for Boys, without a doubt, appears to be a smoldering hotbed of not–so–repressed homosexual experimentation. Although it seems most of these boys are not really gay, they are ‘curious.’ And to raise the stakes even higher, the story delves into inappropriate behavior between teachers and students.
Naturally, such clandestine activities never remain secret for very long and are abruptly dragged into the glaring spotlight. This happens when the Headmaster’s wife sees Hector doing something ‘rather personal’ to one of the boys on the back of his motorbike. The teacher is then taken to task and forced into early voluntary retirement at the end of term. In the real world, it is more likely Hector would have been sacked on the spot and criminal charges pressed. Later on, the ‘plot thickens’ even more when young Mr. Irwin’s latent homosexual inclinations emerge.
Louise Saint–Claire is particularly funny as Mrs. Lintott, the only female character, whose weary but comic resignation makes sure the play doesn’t sag. Her speech about the ineffectiveness of men concludes with the line: “History is women following behind  with the bucket” is one of the best in the show.
Roberto Pombo’s Posner is comically touching, as he is more perturbed about whether or not his gayness is just a phase or the real thing  because he wants it to be the real thing. Pombo also gets to utter one of Bennett's very best lines: “I’m Jewish. I’m homosexual. And I’m from Sheffield.  I’m fucked!
Theo Landey’s performance of Irwin, the full–of–himself new teacher with delusions of superiority, is fun to watch because his bravado is burnished with an undertone of absolute terror.
Clyde Berning who plays Dakin, the sharpest pencil in the pack, is very strong throughout the play except for one scene which should have crackled with homoerotic chemistry. Here, both he and Landey fizzled and nobody sitting in the dark was convinced there was even the slightest attraction between their characters.
But, in spite of its few small shortcomings, this production of The History Boys sparks with brilliance. It is an intelligent, exhilarating evening of theatre laced with more than a few upper echelon expletives, so it is not a play for children. The cast of twelve very capable actors also includes Matthew Lotter, David Schlachter, Gopala Chetty, Jeremy Richard, Marcelle Richards and Asher Stoltz. 
The History Boys plays at Pieter Toerien’s Montecasino Theatre through September 11, 2011.
Review by Neal McKenna
Via the Sunday Independent 

Pieter Toerien’s Montecasino Theatre Refurbished

The History Boys is also the 500th production at Pieter Toerien’s Montecasino Theatre. To celebrate this milestone, the venue has undergone a spectacular R2 million facelift. The main theatre auditorium renovation includes new seats in a new colour scheme as well as increased seating capacity to 390.
The foyer areas have been repainted and refitted with new lighting which includes a glorious crystal chandelier salvaged from the old Alhambra Theatre. It now hangs as the centre piece in the main foyer. The box office has also been spruced up to make it easier for patrons to purchase tickets, and last but not least, the front entrance has been given a fresh, new look. 
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What lies beneath...

Two and a Half Men: Charlie Harper’s 
Gruesome Death Revealed 
– Sheen Responds

Aug 11, 2011 by Anthony Ocasio
The taping of ‘Two and a Half Men’ season 9 premiere has finished, and photos of Charlie Harper’s (Charlie Sheen) funeral have been released – along with the gruesome details of how he died.

Two and a Half Men season 9
With the taping of the Two and Half Men season 9 premiere completed, details are beginning to leak out about the previously-rumored death of Charlie Sheen’s character, Charlie Harper – and they’re even more gruesome than originally thought.
In late July, it was reported that not only was Chuck Lorre set on killing off Harper from the series (to make sure that Sheen could never return), but that he was going to make the death, well, violent.
Originally, sources close to the series said that Lorre was set on having Harper drive off a cliff, but after the Two and a Half Men season 9 premiere taping, the real cause of death was revealed – and it’s much, much worse than a simple “cliff jump:
Charlie is going to be murdered by being pushed in front of a subway car, and his body literally explodes from the impact.
According to those at the taping, here’s how Charlie Harper’s death happens:
  • In the Two and a Half Men season 8 finale, Harper flew off to Paris with Rose – his neighbor/stalker.
  • Harper and Rose got married (during the fictional summer), but the relationship took a turn for the worse when she found him with another woman in the shower.
  • The day after catching Harper in the shower with another woman, they were waiting for the Paris subway when Harper “slipped” in front of a moving car where his body blew apart upon impact.
  • It’s implied that Rose pushed Harper in front of the subway and got away with his murder.
Wait. Two and a Half Men is a comedic sitcom, right? How is murder, a graphic explanation of his death, and a funeral of the main character supposed to be funny? Or even humorous? Short answer: it’s not.
Not only will all of this “hilarious comedy” serve to present a deserving return to television, but then Ashton Kutcher must jump in as the “lonely internet billionaire” who buys Charlie’s house after the funeral.
You can check out a picture from Charlie Harper’s funeral set below (Jenny McCarthy and John Stamos will be in attendance at the funeral):
Charlie Harper's funeral - Two and a Half Men
(view additional set photos at TMZ)
When news first broke regarding Lorre’s intentions to kill Sheen, the fans of Two and a Half Men weren’t all too happy. Considering that news was only about driving off a cliff, one can rightly assume that their reaction to this will be much worse.
Fortunately, there’s at least one person that’s happy to hear about Charlie Harper exploding: Charlie Sheen.
Shortly after the news of his character’s death was revealed, Sheen told TMZ“I am honored that it took something as large and violent as an oncoming train to terminate my character.” Quickly adding, “Anything less would have been an insult!”
While this type of news is more-or-less fun to pick apart – outside of any direct regards to the development of a television series that hundreds are employed by – when one thinks about the path that Lorre has decided to take, it’s hard not to be concerned. For all of the problems that Sheen caused (and he caused many), he always noted that his intentions were to do the best show he could – and from all counts, that’s exactly what Sheen did (no matter what state he was in).
With Sheen gone and Ashton Kutcher taking his place, it appears that Lorre has forgone any type of logical plot progression – especially on a comedic sitcom. Instead of focusing on how to make the best series with what he has left – which is extremely hard in its own right – Lorre is taking unneeded risks in order to provide himself with some type of passive aggressive relief.
At a certain point, one has to ask this question: Is Lorre hurting the series more now than Sheen ever did in the past? I think some would say "yes." 
Two and a Half Men season 9 premieres in the USA September 19 on CBS

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