Top of the class

The His­tory Boys cast shot from class­room to su­per­star­dom, but what came next? Jane Watkins finds out

Country Life Every Week - - Performing Arts -

TEN years ago, the film ver­sion of Alan Ben­nett’s hit play The His­tory Boys was re­leased, bring­ing the mul­ti­award-win­ning pro­duc­tion to a new au­di­ence fol­low­ing runs at the Na­tional Theatre, in the West End, in Aus­tralia and Hong Kong and on Broad­way. Its young cast be­came stars and, un­usu­ally, many of them are now even hot­ter prop­er­ties in this coun­try and in the USA.

Prob­a­bly the most suc­cess­ful has been James Cor­den, who has taken Amer­ica by storm as a chat-show host. One of the most pop­u­lar seg­ments of his Late Late Show is ‘Car­pool Karaoke’, in which he rides around in a car with a celebrity singing along to their hits with his char­ac­ter­is­tic aban­don. His ride with Adele drew more than 110 mil­lion in­ter­net views and that with Michelle Obama had 34 mil­lion views in the first five days. Dur­ing the His­tory Boys run, he was en­cour­aged to write by the play­wright, the re­sult be­ing Gavin & Stacey. Over­ex­po­sure al­most led to the end of his ca­reer, but he stormed back with One Man, Two Gu­vnors. He was made an OBE in 2015.

Cur­rently re­ceiv­ing praise for this per­for­mance as J. K. Rowl­ing’s boy wiz­ard all grown up in Harry Pot­ter and the Cursed Child, Jamie Parker has been build­ing a stel­lar rep­u­ta­tion in Bri­tish theatre, gar­ner­ing ac­claim for his Prince Hal at Shake­speare’s Globe (where he be­came one of the po­ten­tial suc­ces­sors to Do­minic Drom­goole) and as a mu­si­cal-theatre star in such shows as the re­cent Guys and Dolls and at the Proms last year.

Fol­low­ing his per­for­mance as the sexy Dakin, it seemed ob­vi­ous that Hol­ly­wood would come call­ing for Do­minic Cooper, although film suc­cess seemed to elude him af­ter play­ing Sky in Mamma Mia!. He didn’t, how- ever, desert the theatre—he co-starred with Helen Mir­ren in Phè­dre, which was the first pro­duc­tion to be shown in cin­e­mas through Ntlive. Lately, he’s played Tony Stark’s fa­ther for a va­ri­ety of Mar­vel TV and film adap­ta­tions and can be seen on Amazon Prime in Preacher. From Septem­ber 22, he’ll re­turn to the West End for a 10-week run in The Lib­er­tine at the Theatre Royal Hay­mar­ket. Although chil­dren flock to him to as fans of Mike the Knight’s Squirt the dragon, Russell Tovey has quite a pas­sion­ate adult fol­low­ing thanks to roles in Be­ing Hu­man and Look­ing, which of­ten re­quired him to ap­pear naked. He was touted to re­place David Ten­nant in Doc­tor Who, how­ever, the role of the Eleventh Doc­tor went to an­other for­mer His­tory Boy (from a later cast), Matt Smith. Next year, Tovey will re­turn to the Na­tional Theatre for Tony Kush­ner’s epic An­gels in Amer­ica.

Also ap­pear­ing in Doc­tor Who was Samuel An­der­son, who was Clara’s ill-fated boyfriend Danny Pink. Cur­rently in Sky’s comedy Trol­lied, he was also in Jimmy Mc­gov­ern’s Mov­ing On for BBC1.

Samuel Bar­nett has worked steadily in the theatre, most re­cently trav­el­ling to Broad­way with Mark Ry­lance in his all­male Twelfth Night. On tele­vi­sion, he ap­peared in Twenty Twelve, Beau­ti­ful Peo­ple and Penny Dread­ful and can next be seen as the ti­tle char­ac­ter in the Dirk Gen­tly’s Holis­tic De­tec­tive Agency reboot for BBC Amer­ica.

Af­ter try­ing Amer­ica, Sacha Dhawan has been seen in Line

The boys to en­ter­tain you: on the brink of star­dom in 2004

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