THE HISTORY BOYS
BY ALAN BENNETT
The play is about the transference of knowledge, not just between pupils and teachers, but between the actors and the audience.
Bringing the set out onto the fore-stage allowed the classroom to extend from a closed box to an immersive space. The high and free-standing walls were designed to soar above both the actors and the audience, reinforcing the isolation of many of the characters and the seemingly unattainable dreams of Oxbridge.
Fluorescent lighting helped to bring the set to life and unavoidably reminded most people of their own school classrooms with the harsh lighting that ensures there’s nowhere to hide.
This was my first set design at Oxford Playhouse and challenging in many respects. The main challenge was the need to create several locations without long scene changes, but our time, budget and limited experience prevented any extravagant moving sets. Instead, the idea of the school was suggested by the free-standing walls with classroom props constantly onstage and a tea trolley wheeled on by the actors to signify the staff room. I created scale drawings and a model box, then worked alongside the student production manager and professional staff to build the set in the Oxford Playhouse workshop.