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Theatre Review: Horrible Histories

28 February 19 words: Benjamin Knight

Plenty of decapitations, backstabbing and brain-eating to keep the kids entertained

Horrible Histories: Terrible Tudors and Awful Egyptians

The Horrible Histories TV show was good. Really, really good. Not the rubbish cartoon adaptation I got as a kid, but the live-action version from the 2010s. The performance, songs and overall horrible-ness reminded me of why I was so obsessed with Terry Deary’s novels in the first place.

But the television series has gone into history itself now, widening the already big shoes that any of its successors must fill. Does the Horrible Histories stage show fit in them? I think so.

Birmingham Stage Company’s Horrible Histories comes in two shows – Terrible Tudors and Awful Egyptians, based on the Deary books of the same name. I managed to catch Terrible Tudors which portrayed the Tudor family’s rise to power with Richard III’s demise, all the way to the death of Elizabeth I. True to form with the Horrible Histories brand, all the nasty bits were left in – plenty of decapitations, backstabbing and brain-eating to keep the kids entertained. And they were entertained – the kids, of which there were loads, ate it all up (the performance, not the brains). The skeleton cast of three managed to keep the excitable little ‘uns enraptured and open-eared, getting them involved in ruling on-stage trials (where kids were hilariously callous with unanimous ‘GUILTY’s) and singing along with a tuneful version of Henry VIII’s Divorced, Beheaded, Died pattern.

I felt that the first half was strangely lo-fi, making use of nothing but a cart and a projected background to really successfully carry the show, but it turned out that was just an appetiser to the second half. During the interval, the audience were given 3D glasses to enjoy the rest of the show with, as the performance made use of projects of debris, cannonballs and fireworks that got some good screams and laughs.

As well as the Tudors, the show managed to dredge another awful thing up from history with an Oppa Tudor Style joke – a reference that’s now older than most of the kids there. Still, Horrible Histories was a fun and entertaining show for the whole family, and had everyone on board its projected galleon. I’m only disappointed that I won’t be getting to see the Awful Egyptians show as well.

Horrible Histories plays at Nottingham's Theatre Royal until Saturday 2 March 2019.

Terrible Tudors: Tuesday 26 February 7pm, Wednesday 27 February 10.30am*, Thursday 28 February 1.30pm* & Saturday 2 March 3pm.

Awful Egyptians: Wednesday 27 February 1.30pm*, Thursday 28 February 10.30am*, Friday 1 March 7pm & Saturday 2 March 11am.

*Schools performance.

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