A rip-roaring romp around the violent vicissitudes of the seriously rabid reigns of the Tudors. You may have thought that Henry the Eighth was a soft and cuddly composer of sweet, fashion-conscious love ditties and that Good Queen Bess was a paragon of regal virtue but this show puts you right: they weren’t. Rather they were psychotic pathological monsters and they were in every sense of the word HORRIBLE. I mean REALLY HORRIBLE. So HORRIBLE in fact that you’d never dream of bringing your kids to this show. Especially not the under tens. Believe me. Be warned.
But then again it is actually a kids’ show. And therein lies the perfect conundrum of the Horrible Histories franchise – this one being the Terrible Tudors: how do you show explicit violence and x-rated behaviour to a bunch of young, impressionable culture vultures who hang on every beheading and lap up every mention of – er – how shall I put this – unmentionables.
And the answer is – of course – humour.
Neal Foster who directs as well as co-writing the show also appears as Dr Dee and has a gay old time switching costumes as he takes on the personas of Richard the Third, Henry the Seventh, Henry the Eighth, The King of Spain and Sir Francis Drake as well as being a judge and cheer-leader-in-chief for the inevitable kids participation bit when auditorium left tries to out-sing/shout/shriek auditorium right. As judge and King his side inevitably wins. Foster’s been doing this for a while now so he’s got it down to a t and you have to be impressed with his vibrant versatility, his uber-panache, his unbridled enthusiasm and his ability to squeeze a laugh out of the most mundane word or gesture. He knows what these young kids like though I’m not so sure they all entirely get his brilliant inner channelling of Tommy Cooper, switching in and out of his wannabe alter ego just like that. Made me laugh anyway.
Foster’s partner in crime is Emma Swan as Drab and various criminals, whipping boys and ultimately – after a lifetime of beatings and abuse – finally giving it large as Queen Liz the First, resplendently bedecked with virulent red highbrow updo wig. Swan is a bundle of laughs throughout the show, engaging in bants with her newly-found front-row mini-chums and clearly enjoying far too much the various types of pain inflicted upon her. Bombast and bravado are her watchwords as she bounces and sashays her way through the brouhaha of bygone times. A great team, Foster and Swan: a double act, literally, for the ages.
So if you want, or you want your kids to want, excitement, pain, death, deceit, unmentionables, some historical facts and laughs-a-plenty then catch the Terrible Tudors but don’t be surprised if they start being rather horrible once they get home.
Review by Peter Yates
We all want to meet people from history. The trouble is everyone is dead!
So it’s time to prepare yourselves for Terrible Tudors live on stage!
From the horrible Henries to the end of evil Elizabeth, hear the legends (and the lies!) about the torturing Tudors. Find out the fate of Henry’s headless wives and his punch-up with the Pope. Meet Bloody Mary and see Ed fall dead in his bed. Survive the Spanish Armada as they launch their attack!
It’s history with the nasty bits left in!
Birmingham Stage Company’s
HORRIBLE HISTORIES – TERRIBLE TUDORS
Garrick Theatre 2 Charing Cross Rd, London WC2H 0HH