Birmingham Stage Company has selected a spattering of sketches and songs which they believe sum up the ‘Barmy’ past of Britain. Covering a huge range of British history from St Alban hiding from Roman soldiers, ‘Bob’ the Viking Builder, the misunderstood Richard III, Queen Elizabeth’s sugar addiction, right up to an unfortunate incident on the first ever railway journey, all crammed into an hour-long show.
In true Horrible Histories style, each tidbit of history is told with humour at the forefront. Expect fart jokes, expect blood, guts and gore and if you cannot get on board with a song about toilet cleaners to the tune of Jason Derulo’s ‘Talk Dirty’, then this probably is not the show for you.
The sketches were packed with educational information and lots of interesting details which really colour the history. I imagine there wasn’t an audience member, young or old, who didn’t take away at least one nugget of new knowledge.
The show was a two-hander with Benedict Martin and Pip Chamberlain taking on a range of characters, often in very quick succession. The two actors handled their multi-roles incredibly well, but a third person would have given an extra dimension to the sketches.
Both men were fairly similar to each other in style and tone and I would have liked to have seen a woman take on some of the roles. A larger discussion perhaps needs to be had about men playing great female characters in dresses with wigs and silly voices for laughs, but that’s for another day.
The show did not shy away from modern politics claiming that “Britain has never been barmier than its current situation.” There was a Brexit joke within the first few minutes and Boris Johnson also got some scathing comments.
It is well within the spirit of Horrible Histories to satire and ridicule, but this agenda seemed to sail slightly over the audience’s heads.
Overall, an hour of fun and silliness which children will love. Just make sure the adult that takes them is not too prim and proper (they will have to chant about poo).