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It’s not Great Britain, it’s Barmy Britain: A review of Horrible Histories Barmy Britain Part Two

| Kids, Theatre | 15/10/2013

Horrible Histories at the Garrick Theatre
Image by Garrick Theatre

Barmy Britain Part Two is a pantomimic triumph. Written by Terry Deary and Neal Forster, and produced by the Birmingham Stage Company, Horrible Histories is back to its gruesome best. From start to end you’ll be entertained and educated by a well-executed theatre show.

Image by Garrick Theatre

Image by Garrick Theatre

Through a series of sketches starting with Queen Boudica’s plight against the Romans, touching in on the bubonic plague, and then the beheading of Charles I. Then throw in the murderous Burke and Hare, and of course like any good history themed theatre show, end with Queen Victoria belting out a rap. Of course, only a Horrible Histories production could get away with mixing all these characters together. And they do, the sketches on their own were a marvel to watch. As each sketch unravelled telling its own gruesome, bloody and on occasion heroic tale, they seamlessly came together to produce what is arguably the best history themed production in the West End.

Queen Victoria and Prince Albert

Image by Jane Hobson

Aside from the rapping and dancing Queen Victoria (something I’d never thought I’d ever write, let alone see), the on-stage performances of both Lauryn Redding and Anthony Spargo were tremendous to say the least. Together they brought the bloodiest aspects of British history- the bits we might won’t to ignore, like for instance the story of King Richard (‘the Lion-Heart’) I, killing 2,700 Muslims in the Holy Land even after they surrendered, not just to life on stage; but it was their tight on-stage chemistry, which allowed them to work slickly together in this fast-paced production. At some points they had the entire theatre singing along to their ‘horrible’ and humorous songs. Both Redding’s and Spargo’s repertoires are certainly impressive, they sang, they danced, and even rapped at times. They were good enough to allow them to keep their heads, although the same cannot be said for Charles I!

Image by Garrick Theatre

Image by Garrick Theatre

This was no ordinary history theatre production. There were facts, and more facts and more facts that you could take in, but there were also original songs and unique dance moves throughout. But, it wouldn’t be right if I didn’t mention the Horrible History interpretation of Saturday nights ‘Take Me Out’. Or even their take on an old classic, Postman Pat. But I won’t ruin it by revealing all; but I’ll write one thing, it’s not to be missed.

The creative minds working behind the scenes of Barmy Britain also deserve credit and praise. The set, was simple and sleek, which worked perfectly as it allowed the younger audience members imaginations to run wild, just like the barmy stories they were being told. The costumes were in keeping with the traditions of that particular time- although I for one don’t recall ever reading that Elizabeth I ever owned a pair of black sunglasses. But then again I don’t think Queen Victoria was accustomed to the idea of rapping. The music, special effects, sound and choreography were all perfectly in tune, and added to the spectacle of what is definitely ‘Barmy Britain.’

Image by Garrick Theatre

Image by Garrick Theatre

To end the review I don’t think there’s a better way than to share with you a little snippet from Queen Victoria’s rap- ‘she’s Vicky with a V, and he’s Albert with an A.’ The creative songs and raps will have you singing all the way home. If anything, this Horrible Histories production confirms to everyone that we live in ‘Barmy Britain’ and not Great Britain.

Written by Sandip Kana
(For more barmy reviews follow @SandipKana )

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