Technically, it was a beautiful show; outstanding set light and sound. But, as much as I enjoyed the performance, the more I think about the production, the less satisfied I am.
For me, the most significant aspect of this story set in northern England was some of the similarity to issues in present day American education. As a retired college professor, I have long been unsettled by the conflict between "teaching" and "teaching to the test." When I was in the classroom, I often said that I could not teach anybody anything. If I were a successful teacher it was to the degree that I could encourage students to want to learn; I saw the role of the teacher to be a catalyst who raised the questions that would lead students to go and find their own answers, sometimes related to facts and sometimes to their personal values. Hector (played wonderfully by Dakin Matthews) very much fit this model albeit in a somewhat eccentric and quirky way. In counterpoint was Irwin (Peter Paige) who was hired by the Headmaster (H. Richard Greene) specifically to prepare The History Boys to succeed at doing well on admission tests. In coaching them, he even suggested that lying in interviews was okay if it meant getting into the more prestigious universities.
It seemed that much of the raciness built into the script was there to provide titillating humor, to keep people laughing and not paying too match attention to the tension between teaching philosophies. Of all the cast members, I found myself most drawn to Dakin Matthews, as much for his portrayal of Hector, whose style and approach I admired, as for the fact that he is a Professor Emeritus from California State University, East Bay (formerly Hayward), one of the sister institutions to California State University, Dominguez Hills, where I received my emeritus designation when I retired.
All in all, it was a pleasant afternoon at the theatre but I suspect it could have been more fulfilling than it was.