Last Updated on August 17, 2021
Family entertainment at the Apollo Theatre, London
Long summer holidays call for good family entertainment, something that the kids will love and the adults will also enjoy. Horrible Histories Live Barmy Britain – Part 5, which is showing at the Apollo Theatre in London’s West End ticks all the right boxes with its witty, mad-cap antics and a healthy dose of historical education thrown in for good measure.
The Birmingham Stage Company are one of the leading theatre companies specialising in family theatre, collaborating with best-selling authors in order to bring some of the top classic children’s stories to the stage. In this case, Terry Deary’s hugely popular books, Horrible Histories, now one of the world’s bestselling non-fiction series for children. It is no surprise that these books which are so well-loved by children and parents alike have transferred brilliantly to the stage.
The recipe for their theatrical success partly lies with Neal Foster and Morgan Philpott, a furiously funny and engaging pair who have already delivered the first four Barmy Britain shows with a formula that is well and truly tested. In fact, The Birmingham Stage Company first joined forces with Horrible Histories in 2005 and have gone on to take the shows on tour in the UK, Australia, the Middle East and the Far East. Barmy Britain Part 5, written and directed by Neal Foster, provides a series of fast-paced satirical sketches which rollick through approximately 1,500 years of grisly history in seventy minutes. You don’t need to have seen the previous shows in order to enjoy this production, as each one stands alone and features original material.
The stage is simply set with two coat stands on either side to provide easy access for frequent costume changes, wigs, headdresses and props. In the centre is a series of blocks that transform into anything from a throne to a sailing ship. The two brilliantly entertaining and adept performers take you on a speedy journey through history right back to the Saxons, kicking off with King Alfred the Great and his daughter Aethelflaed, Lady of the Mercians. The narrative focuses mainly on royalty which includes King Henry VIII, William the Conquer, Queen Elizabeth I and the gorgeous Georgians. Then, there are some amusing references to Thomas Jones, a lesser-known historical figure who broke into Buckingham Palace multiple times and managed to steal a pair of Queen Victoria’s underpants followed by the more recent escapade in 1982 when Michael Fagan also broke into the Queen’s bedroom after drinking half a bottle of the palace’s wine.
There are a few catchy musical numbers, my young companions found the William the Conqueror rap especially funny along with ‘Hanover handover’. In all honesty, it’s difficult not to enjoy this show, with its gory historical details, goofy humour and the plentiful mix of toilet humour. I was delighted to see my two fellow co-critics (aged 10 and 7) happily giggling throughout and they gave it an excellent review calling it “interesting, inspiring, funny and very silly”. Perfect barmy family entertainment, suitable for ages 5-100!
Horrible Histories – Barmy Britain – Part 5
London W1D 7EZ
Horrible histories runs until 28 August 2021