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Review: Horrible Histories - Barmy Britain at Whitley Bay Playhouse

Horrible Histories - Barmy Britain
Whitley Bay Playhouse
Until Sunday 18th June 2017

On a fabulously hot day, the Whitley Bay venue was the host to a classic family friendly show. Mixing elements of pantomime and the traditional end-of-the-pier summer special with history the theatre was filled with the sound of young people laughing and singing.

Horrible Histories is a popular series of illustrated history books published in the United Kingdom by Scholastic which were designed to bring history to life for children by presenting the unusual, gory, or unpleasant aspects in a tongue-in-cheek manner in contrast to what is taught in school. The series, written by Terry Deary, has proved exceptionally successful as led to an equally successful award-winning TV series which is still being shown regularly today. Thus the concept is well known and that will explain the packed house at the Playhouse.

We have seen a number of Birmingham Stage productions including Gangsta Granny and other Horrible Histories. This particular production involves Laura Dalgleish and Neal Foster plus a mountain of costumes ready for a quick change. The two handed show starts with the Roman invasion and runs through to Victorian Britain via Tudors, plague, highwaymen, grave robbers and the gunpowder plot via a number of other tales. We have communal singing, jokes for the kids, jokes for the adults and jokes for everyone. There are even a couple of references to tv show formats.

Some family shows make the mistake of isolating the action from the audience but that is not a problem here. The actors are demanding interaction with the audience from the get-go.

The shows are entertaining, especially for the Key Stage 2 child, though there’s plenty for both the older and younger child and their parents too.  Laura and Neal work hard to keep the pace up and to keep the children involved. The regular change of period tale and resultant costume is a challenge for them both and they successfully entertain the keen young Horrible History fans.

Horrible Histories has done a great job in making history popular. This entertaining show keeps to the fun and gory facts that kids love and was a nice way to spend 80 minutes on a Saturday afternoon.

Review by Stephen Oliver
Tickets costing £14, £12 conc., £48 Family Ticket (2 adults and 2 children) are available now.

Tickets are available from the Box Office open Monday – Friday 10am – 4pm, Saturday 10.30am – 2.30pm plus until show start on event days. Tickets can also be purchased on the booking hotline 0844 248 1588* or online at

*Calls cost 7p per minute plus your phone company’s access charge.

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