Friday, 11 March 2011

Interview: George Banks (History Boys)

Playing a cocky and boisterous teenager is something new for the understated George Banks who will be heading to Curve next month to star in Alan Bennett’s The History Boys.

The Public Reviews reporter, Jemma Crowston, caught-up with the 23-year-old during the show’s tour in Bath.

Director, Christopher Luscombe has revived the show for the first time since its original National Theatre production.

The History Boys, which has picked up three Olivier Awards, six Tony Awards, the Critics’ Circle and Evening Standard Awards, will tell it’s tale of a Yorkshire Grammar School at Leicester’s Curve theatre from March 21 to March 26.

Known as one of the great plays of the decade, The History Boys is set in a school in the North of England where a sprightly bunch of bright, funny, sixth-form boys are attempting to gain entrance to Oxford or Cambridge whilst evading the distractions of sport and sex.

“The headmaster brings in a new history teacher to give the boys an edge in their exams and what you see on stage is a very enjoyable show with complex relationships between the students and the teacher and the teacher and the headmaster”, said Banks.

Banks will play Dakin, the leader-of-the-pack. He said, “Dakin is very cocky and impressive. He’s quite charming and a big flirt.

“I was a bit of nerd in school so nothing like Dakin. I can be a bit of a flirt I guess but I’d love to be like Dakin and have all that confidence.”

Banks said his favourite scenes are the ones with Dakin and the new teacher Hector played by Philip Franks (Darling Buds of May, Absolutely Fabulous). Banks said, “They’ve got quite a unique relationship. I also love the scenes when all the boys are in the classroom. We’re all very cheeky and like to cause mischief so we’re on stage drawing pictures and showing each other for a laugh.

“We’re all around the same age so the tour has been great because we’ve been out socialising.”

The 12-strong cast including Banks have been touring since January and Leicester will be there penultimate stop.

When asked if he could would he re-live his school days again, Banks replied, “I’ve got fond memories from school but I know some of them are through rose-tinted glasses so I wouldn’t want to ruin the memories I have.”

The Watford born actor has starred in many theatre and some TV roles but has also lent his voice for documentaries and computer games including Harry Potter: Quidditch World Cup.

Banks said the show would be suitable by anyone whose been in education. He said, “Everyone whose gone through education has fond memories and this show has a character that everyone can relate to.

“It’s a beautiful play and I defy any audience member who doesn’t come out asking whoever is nearest ‘who was your Hector?’ Who was the teacher that inspired you?”

Banks added, “My GCSE English teacher was the first teacher to respect me as an individual. I think I was about 14 or 15 and for the first time we were treated as adults – not vacuous children. He ignited my passion for text and was very much like Hector in that he opened up the possibilities of everything to us.

“It was great to be in his lessons. I can still feel his influence on how I approach a text and in the way I try to reach a deeper understanding of what it is saying.”

In 2005, a film was made with the entire original cast of The History Boys, many of whom, including James Corden and Dominic Cooper, who have subsequently became household names.

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