A wonderful, witty play. A group of eight teenage boys are in their final year of school, preparing to take scholarship examinations for university. Oxford or Cambridge admission is the big prize. Their teachers have different ideas about the role of education which seem competitive but are complementary.
The boys and teachers verbally joust and show off throughout the play as they struggle to find what they think will be the best way to succeed at the exams. Should they learn to be showmen of history, hiding their shallow knowledge with a glib and deft ability to turn a question on its side, learning how to hide their deflection by cloaking it in humour, outrageous comments and witty asides? Or should they foster an understanding and appreciation of a wider range of inquiry?
Being boys of late teenage years, they also are wrestling with their sexuality and its expression, and are further burdened by society's oppression of gays, which was only beginning to weaken in the 1980s when this is set.
Alan Bennett's style is as usual gentle, witty and incisively understanding of the human condition. Highly recommended.
Also highly recommended is Manny's funny "Digested Read" style review on Goodreads: http://www.goodreads.com/review/show/39431060