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Review of Horrible Histories The Best of Barmy Britain

Horrible Histories 2016Fans of the Horrible Histories franchise will be excited to hear that Birmingham Stage Company is currently celebrating its 5th anniversary of Barmy Britain in the West End. Retaining its position as the longest running children’s show in West End History BSC has produced a special 70 minute installment of Horrible Histories, showcasing their most Barmy and marvellously horrible best bits from all three Barmy Britain productions. The show is at The Apollo Theatre on Shaftesbury Avenue until the 3rd September 2016.

The show is suitable “For ages 5 – 106! (107 year old may not like it as much)” and I concur, regardless of age, or gender this show is a true delight and allows its audience to embrace their inner child, act a bit silly and laugh out loud whilst actually learning stuff – and important historical stuff at that!

I’m not new to Horrible Histories, now I don’t have kids, nor have I ever seen the TV show (Shame on me, I know!). However, I did pop along last year to one of their shows with a good friend of mine and her daughter and loved it so much that when the chance to review the show came up this year I jumped at the opportunity. Attending the piece on my own initially I felt a bit strange – sitting in an auditorium full to the brim with children eagerly awaiting the show, thankfully entertained by their programmes/activity books that are available to purchase from the Foyer/Ushers. However, within minutes of the show starting I was already shouting at the actors in a pantomime style, singing along and joining in with the general merriment that followed. Songs are accompanying movements are still in my head and have been performed in the office this morning to my colleagues!

The show is perfect edutainment. It is designed to be fun and educational yet NOT patronising, the performers know their audience and deliver a hefty warm embrace to them. Barmy Britain breaks the Rules, the Barmy people we meet include the Flame Haired, rather plump Scot Boudicca, who beat the Roman’s at their own fair game, “she will, she will, smash you” sung in tune to Queen’s We will Rock You. We investigate the Black Death, find out why the Magna Carta was signed by an unwilling rather tiny King John, (a rather cute puppet who nods to Catherine Tate’s Lauren Character!).

We delve into the Tudors and explore the lives and deaths of Henry 8th, join a panel of the infamous game show “Who wants to Blow Up Parliament” and take a peek behind the scenes at The Great British Bake Off set in 17th Century London within Pudding Lane plus much more more!

There are also a few lines delivered for an adult sense of humour, songs about Farage, jokes regarding Luis Suarez and the referendum all have their moments and add to the cheekiness and relevancy of this show.

The coupling of Neal Foster and Alison Fitzjohn is a dream to watch; they have fantastic chemistry, their comic timing is impeccable and their on-stage relationship is slick. They work together to bring all their characters to life in front of a very young audience. As we know an audience of children will not put up with a bad show – children vote with their mouths and legs, however, within minutes of the show starting Foster and Fitzjohn had their audience under a spell which doesn’t break until the show has passed. These two performers are at the top of their game, their ad-libs are brilliant, their performance style energetic and they make their audience feel welcome and at ease instantly.

If you love silliness, enjoy pantomimes and want to learn how to remember the wives of Henry 8th, or the best way to cure The Plague then get down to the Apollo Theatre before this show sells out.

5 Star Rating

Review by Faye Stockley

We all want to meet people from history. The trouble is everyone is dead!
So it’s time to prepare yourselves for a special production of Horrible Histories featuring your favourite characters from our barmy past to celebrate the 5th Anniversary of Barmy Britain in the West End!

Could you beat battling Boudicca? Will King John be a martyr for the Magna Carta? Will you lose your heart or your head to Henry VIII? Can Parliament survive gunpowder Guy? Light up your life with the great fire of London! Escape the clutches of Burke and Hare and move to the groove with party Queen Victoria!
It’s the history of Britain with the nasty bits left in!

Book tickets for Horrible Histories – The Best of Barmy Britain at the Apollo Theatre
Running time is 70 minutes
Age range is 5+
Booking From: 5th August 2016
Booking Until: 3rd September 2016

Buy London Theatre Tickets

Read our interview with Neal Foster


  • Faye Stockley

    Faye read Theatre & Performance at The University of Warwick; she went on to work as a stage manager in London and Edinburgh. She had a year's stint on-board the MV Island Escape as a Social Host and Compere and now works full time as a Recruitment Manager for the broadcast, entertainment and media sectors.

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