New York Critics Give 'History Boys Best Play Award

By Jury, Louise | The Independent (London, England), May 13, 2006 | Go to article overview
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New York Critics Give 'History Boys Best Play Award


Jury, Louise, The Independent (London, England)


They are known as the harshest of judges' the critics who can close down a play with a sentence of finely-honed invective.

But New York's scribes had almost nothing but praise for the transfer to Broadway of the National Theatre's surprise hit, The History Boys by Alan Bennett. Nineteen drama critics from the New York Post to The Wall Street Journal, who make up the New York Drama Critics' Circle, have honoured Bennett's distinctively English work on the theme of education as the best play of the 2005-06 season. The production has already won almost every prize going in Britain.

The latest award, often seen as a precursor to the Tony awards, will be presented at a cocktail reception at the Algonquin Hotel where the circle was founded in 1935 by journalists including Walter Winchell and Robert Benchley.

In selecting a best play by a British playwright, the critics had the option to hand out a separate award to an American play but declined. Last month, the board of the Pulitzer Prize also failed to hand out an award for distinguished American drama, in an apparent indictment of the state of US playwriting.

Yet it is a vote of confidence in the National Theatre team and for Bennett, whose work was last seen on Broadway with Habeas Corpus in 1975. As Ben Brantley wrote in The New York Times: "A beloved and ubiquitous figure in Britain, where playwrights enjoy a celebrity unknown to their American counterparts, Mr Bennett has never developed an equivalent following stateside.

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