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Horrible Histories Barmy Britain

The Alexandra Theatre, Birmingham


Horrible Histories brings its madcap history lessons to Birmingham’s Alexandra Theatre with the Birmingham Stage Company’s production of Barmy Britain 3-D, and, having never seen an HH live show, I was interested to see how it translated to the stage.

The answer – with gusto.

I’ve rarely seen a cast work so hard – what they lack in numbers (they’re a cast of two, Rex - Jack Ballard and Roger - Morgan Philpott on Press night) they more than make up for in crackling energy, rapier wit, seriously fast costume changes and a vast array of accents and characters.   

This whistle stop tour of Barmy Britain covers the middle ages and Boudica, through to Henry VIII, Guy Fawkes, Dick Turpin, Burke and Hare and Queen Victoria in a rip roaring show which encourages, nay demands, audience participation.

It’s fair to say it’s not exactly Wolf Hall. There are fart gags aplenty, more bottom jokes than you can shake a . . . well, bottom at and a barrowload of puns. That’s not to say there’s no education in it – it’s just staged in such a way that it never gets boring and probably does not even get spotted as education, such is the level of fun.

thumbs up to Rome

True to form, they make sure that the horrible is still present and correct. With gruesome facts like the ineptitude of executioners during Elizabethan times making for darker subject matter. It never feels gratuitous however and I’d say children six and up should be fine with it.

The show is split into two parts – ideal to give little legs the chance for a comfort break and more importantly to get some treats in the interval. 

The second half is when 3D animations come into effect – with plenty of flying objects hurtling out at the audience from the video screen eliciting plenty of oohs and aahhs,.

The two youngsters in my company had a fantastic time and also learnt a lot too but – and this is the crucial thing – didn’t feel like they were being taught. They just thought it was interesting and fun rolled into one.

After the trials and tribulations of lockdown home learning, Horrible Histories may be the secret formula that so many parents were desperately seeking.

The only downside for me was the low audience turnout – this is a show which deserves a jam packed theatre. Hopefully Birmingham will provide it for the rest of the run.  

I thoroughly recommend it for young and old alike . With two shows a day and tickets starting at £13, you’d frankly be barmy to miss it.  

Theo Clarke


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