Born on the 9th of May, 1934, in Leeds to his father, Walter, a butcher, and his mother, Lilian, he started life in education at Christ Church to then move on to Leeds Modern School before applying for a scholarship to Oxford, landing in Exeter College, graduating after studying history. After graduating, he stayed in the university as a junior lecturer but he soon realised, in 1960, that it wasn’t the suitable life for him.
In August of the same year, Bennett appeared in a show at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival with Dudley Moore, Peter Cook, and Johnathan Miller. He gained fame from this and went on to make his first stage play, Forty Years On, in 1968, and followed this by a stream of involvements in screenwriting, radio plays, and acting roles.
In 1980, Bennet wrote the play ‘Enjoy’ but its first showing was not entirely successful despite having a good cast but its revival in 2008 did see success in the form of the 2009 West End move, which secured over £1 million in ticket sales. Bennet, after writing ‘Enjoy’ went on to write ‘The Lady in the Van’ in 1989 (in essay form), published in 1990 in book form, and finally in 1999 as a stage play.
We then see Bennett strike success again with ‘The History Boy’, garnering him the Laurence Olivier award in 2005 and then six Tony awards on Broadway.
The History Boys
An unruly bunch of bright, funny sixth-form boys in pursuit of sex, sport and a place at university. A maverick English teacher at odds with the young and shrewd supply teacher. A headmaster obsessed with results; a history teacher who thinks he’s a fool.
In Alan Bennett’s classic play, staff room rivalry and the anarchy of adolescence provoke insistent questions about history and how you teach it; about education and its purpose.