Theatre review: Barmy Britain at the Garrick Theatre

London, UK. 10.10.2013. Birmingham Stage Company presents, as part of the Horrible Histories series

London, UK. 10.10.2013. Birmingham Stage Company presents, as part of the Horrible Histories series of stage shows, Barmy Britain Part II, at the Garrick Theatre, from September 26th 2013 to January 5th 2014. Cast is: Lauryn Redding and Anthony Spargo. Photograph © Jane Hobson. - Credit: © Jane Hobson

These two hard-working performers sure clock up some time travel in this enjoyable Horrible Histories spin-off – fast forwarding from Boudicca to the Victorians in just an hour.

Barmy Britain

Garrick Theatre

****

These two hard-working performers sure clock up some time travel in this enjoyable Horrible Histories spin-off – fast forwarding from Boudicca to the Victorians in just an hour.


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For those unfamiliar, Terry Deary’s hugely successful books cherry-pick the kind of disgusting, gruesome historical facts that capture children’s imaginations, and add lashings of humour to create tomes both educational and enjoyable.

The Birmingham Stage Company are past masters at stage adaptations of children’s books by Roald Dahl, Philip Pullman and Michael Morpurgo and – with a script co-written by Deary himself – stick closely to the winning formula of the Horrible Histories TV series, grafting sketches, songs and anachronistic styles onto historical episodes.

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Thus we get Queen Victoria performing a rap, highwayman Dick Turpin recast in The Only Way is Essex, and Queen Elizabeth I as an ‘undercover boss’ travelling incognito around Tudor England to see how the peasants live.

Aided by a wealth of costumes and a jack-in-a-box set that converts from jail to castle to chicken coop, both Anthony Spargo and Lauryn Redding give versatile comic turns, and work the room with plenty of audience participation – whether encouraging a sing-along about the Black Death or co-opting the Postman Pat theme tune for a Burke and Hare tribute.

It’s lively, slick and might just help turn kids onto their history lessons.

Only a closing ill-judged contemporary satire on today’s political leaders struck a rare bum note.

Booking until January 2014.

Bridget Galton

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