Bonkers, Brave, Brilliant, Bizarre… I’m sure there’s plenty of ways to describe the Island that is Great Britain, however Horrible Histories have decided to settle with Barmy Britain instead, a title very fitting, setting the tone for the very tongue in cheek family show.
The celebrated unconventional series, written by Terry Deary has been a staple in British classrooms for decades, with the author’s unique brand of gruesome facts, but in a very accessible manner. The book series in past 6 years has enjoyed a new lease of life, thanks to the award winning TV series of the same name shown on CBBC. The series appeals to children, due to its clever fusion of 21st century pop culture and historical reenactment and also appeals to adults, thanks to its self depricating style and subtle one liners.
The live show very much takes all of this into consideration, and presents an array of historical periods in the space of just over an hour. Actors Anthony Spargo and Neal Foster charismatically navigate the inquisitive crowd on a vivacious tour of Victorian, Tudor, and Stone Age Britain to name a few. Living in the 21st Century, we’re accustomed to buildings that rival the heights of the sky and cars that can outdo the speed of a cheetah, however it may appear impossible to believe, or easy to forget that Britain over 700,000 years ago was home to the likes of Mammoths, Rhino’s and Neanderthals, one of the earliest versions of humank kind. This is what Horrible Histories does well, it transports audiences to historical periods decades, centuries, millennia away for what we could possibly imagine, and presents facts about them in a digestible and comical manner.
The ethos of the show is to make information accessible to both young children and adults also, so audience participation is integral to the piece. The audience are invited to sing along to an informative number, explaining why parts of the UK end with certain letters. It turns out, places ending in ‘by’ are ex Viking colonies, places ending in ‘borough’ are ex Saxon colonies and places ending in ‘ester’ are ex Roman colonies. The use of song is a great way to embed information into the minds of the audience.
The audience participation continues as a member of the audience is invited onto the stage to purchase items from a Tudor themed outlet. As Spargo and Foster present a Fast Show-esque inspired double act, the audience entertained learn what was deemed as acceptable clothing for the lower and working classes. The Great Fire of London, Puritanical Britain and the Signing of the Magna in 1215 by King John all have their time to shine in the spotlight. Spargo and Foster again illuminate the space with eccentricity, humour and a dynamicism that has the audience gripped from start to finish. horrible Histories doesn’t take itself too seriously, and rivals the likes of museums to bring families an interactive experience! 4/5
Review written by Lucy Basaba.
Horrible Histories Barmy Britain: Part 3 is currently showing at the Garrick Theatre until Saturday 5th September For mor information on the production, visit here…