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Review: Horrible Histories: Barmy Britain at Darlington Civic Theatre

A fine celebration of
Britain’s great history

Horrible Histories: Barmy Britain
DarlingtonCivic Theatre
Until Sunday 9th November 2014

21 years ago Terry Deary had his first Horrible Histories title published. 2014 sees Deary co-write a stage production with Neal Foster that features many elements of what made both the books and the tv series popular. By concentrating on the fun, the gory and the interesting, the Birmingham Stage Company have another family friendly hit on their hands. On opening night the audience, of all ages, had fun in a packed theatre.

The production begins with the arrival of Alison Fitzjohn and Laura Dalgleish as traffic wardens to tell off Benedict Martin and Gary Wilson for parking their cart on the stage. A challenge is quickly offered to show that Britainwas more Barmy than Great.    

Through catchy songs and funny sketches the history of the country is presented: starting with the invaders and finishing with the Great War. An effort is made to debunk some of the myths of legends such as Dick Turpin and to explain why other events such as the Gunpowder Plot and WW1 started. Popular characters from the tv series such as Queen Victoria, Boudica, Henry VIII and Queen Elizabeth rub shoulders with the notorious Burke and Hare. The audience are encouraged to sing along and get involved.

The show doesn’t overdo the gore or the fart jokes as a number of popular television formats are plagiarised such as Location, Location, Location; Who Wants To Be A Millionaire and The Only Way Is Essex. The cast undertake regular costume changes but the action is never permitted to stop.

The second half involves 3-D Bogglevision. This feature is shameless in throwing images at the audience at regular intervals to squeal at or duck from and this seemed to be highly appreciated by the younger members of the audience. All four members of the cast continue to work hard and the combination of special effects and live stage show work well together.

Barmy Britain is a whistle-stop tour of a few of the highlights of our history which will appeal to a wide range of age groups.  The show goes a long way to show that learning can be entertaining – and that must be a good thing.

This review was written by Stephen Oliverfor Jowheretogo PR ( Follow Jo on twitter @jowheretogo, Stephen @panic_c_button or like Jowheretogo on Facebook

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