REVIEW: Horrible Histories, Barmy Britain Part 4 (Apollo Theatre)

After a busy three show week for the munchkins, which covered a diverse range of genres from classic children’s literature (read our Peter Rabbit review here) and science (Brainiac review) through to the life and times of Gloria and Emilio Estefan (On Your Feet! review), we managed to squeeze in a trip to Horrible Histories just before heading off on holiday. With said holiday (and associated internet issues referenced in our last blog) rather getting in the way of writing, this review is somewhat tardy. Although in the context of its historical subject matter, a couple of weeks ago is really rather recent.

Aimed at ages 5 and over, Horrible Histories very much does what it says on the tin. This installment of the popular series familiarises young audiences with British history through storytelling, song and general silliness. It’s a whistle-stop tour that introduces some of Britain’s most infamous individuals, including Kings Henry VIII and Richard III, and Queens Elizabeth I, Mary Tudor and Mary Queen of Scots. All performed in Monty Pythonesque style by Benedict Martin and Pip Chamberlain. Particular highlights include an explanation of the glamorous job of the night soil men and satirical references to the current state of British affairs. The audience participation ranged from historical sledging (involving chanting about bottoms and what comes out of them) to a witch trial. Predictably, Quaver was very enthusiastic when asked if she wanted to go on stage and so her West End debut consisted of reciting a tongue twister to convince King James I that she should keep her head. Thankfully she was returned to us at the end of the trial.

Although the munchkins are both within the suggested age range for this production, Mummy and Mrs Mummy were subjected to a barrage of questions throughout, and felt that slightly older children with a basic knowledge of some of the subject matter may get more from it. (Crotchet was familiar with the Great Fire of London, but nothing else.) Much of the audience participation also relied on them being able to read. On the other hand, there is plenty of high energy physical comedy to keep younger children entertained, even if they don’t come out with much in the way of an historical education. It’s a great show to get children interested in history and would probably work well for families looking for something that amuses a range of ages. Including the grown-ups!

RATING: Raindrops, Whiskers and Kettles (aka 3 out of 5 of my favourite things).

Horrible Histories is booking at the Apollo Theatre until 31 August 2019