Interview: Hollyoaks’ Steven Roberts on swapping soap stardom for the stage

Steven Roberts as Posner in The History Boys. Photographs: Matt Martin Photography
7 Jun 2015 @ 12.56 pm
| News
The History Boys

Grand Opera House, York

Mon Jun 8-Sat Jun 13 @ 7.30pm; Wed & Sat 2.30pm matinee


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Known to millions of Hollyoaks fans as the sharp-tongued fashionista George Smith, actor Steven Roberts is set to take to the Grand Opera House stage as the lovelorn Posner in a critically-acclaimed production of Alan Bennett’s classic play The History Boys. Pete Wise caught up with George to talk touring, coming of age, and life after Hollyoaks.

Tell us a little about the play.

It’s a coming-of-age story about a bunch of 18-year-old boys. They have done really well in their A-levels, so the headmaster’s pushing them to go on to study history.

He’s got his sights set on them getting in to Oxford and Cambridge, and he brings in a new, younger teacher to give them the tips and the moulding that they need to get there.

Within the school there’s a clash between the old style of teaching and the new, and at the same time all the boys are kind of finding out who they are.

It’s got humour, quite touching moments, and it makes you think a bit as well

On top of that you’ve got the fact that Hector – who’s the slightly more old school, eccentric, thinks knowledge should be there for life sort of teacher – he has a habit of offering boys rides home on his motorbike – and feeling them up on the way! It’s interesting nowadays, especially in the light of Jimmy Saville. There’s quite a lot of thought-provoking stuff in there.

It’s a lovely play – it’s got a bit of everything in it. It’s got humour, quite touching moments, and it makes you think a bit as well.

How would you describe your character, Posner?

He’s a young gay guy who’s kind of finding his feet and addressing his sexuality. He’s very much in love with the best-looking boy in the class, Daykin, who is very confident and charismatic. Posner thinks he’s amazing.

All the boys are brilliant, vivacious characters – they’ve all got a lovely zest for life and they all kind of bounce off each other. Some of them are a bit cheekier than the others.

Is he similar to your Hollyoaks character?

George, my character from Hollyoaks, knew who he was from his first appearance and he was proud of it, whereas Posner addresses who is over the course of the play. He’s a little bit more reserved.

Posner (Steven) shares a moment with Dakin (Kedar Williams Stirling) in The History Boys
Posner (Steven) shares a moment with Dakin (Kedar Williams Stirling) in The History Boys

Do you and the rest of the cast have plans while you’re in York?

We do all get on really well! We started in January, so we’ve been doing it for a good four months or so. We’ve seen a lot of the country, which is nice – we’re looking forward to coming to York. I went there when I was a lot younger, and we did the York Dungeons, the Minster and the walls and everything.

For the main part we have the days free, so we can go off and explore the cities. When we were in Blackpool a few weeks ago we had a great day out at the Pleasure Beach! We’re all looking forward to York because it’s so beautiful.

The music really made the film adaptation of the play. Can we expect more of the same here?

We’ve got some great music in the show – a lot of the scenes are broken up by blasts of 80s music. It’s timeless! My character sings a few little ditties, but they’re a lot more old school kind of Gracie Fields numbers. The 80s music in the show is brilliant!

This is my professional debut in theatre. I did three years in Hollyoaks, but this is my first professional theatre job since drama school. It’s an amazing experience – I’m really lucky we’ve got such a brilliant cast.

What’s next?

Us actors, we just have to hope the work comes along and embrace every opportunity we get. I’m loving doing this production at the moment – it’s lovely travelling the country and seeing the different audiences.