1. Horrible Histories is a wildly successful children’s series that has grown from books, to BAFTA winning TV show, to theatre events. The latest production created with Birmingham Stage Company, More Best of Barmy Britain, is currently spilling its guts at Garrick Theatre. The show appeals to kids and adults thanks to its frank, funny and unfiltered take on history. It doesn’t just gloss over the gory stuff, it dives in head first!
2. I’m often struck by how boring history class was at school, despite history being one of the most fascinating subjects. After all, it’s the story of humans and how they’ve shaped the world around them. But mostly our teachers reduced it to dry facts, figures and memorising dates by rote.
Horrible Histories has a totally different approach, cramming this ‘refresher session’ with gross-out humour, crazy costumes and some ridiculous song and dance routines. A rollicking ride through past eras, More Best of Barmy Britain is also filled with modern references. That’s anything from Black Eyed Peas to The Only Way is Essex. You couldn’t be bored if you tried. My kids and I had the same goofy grin on our faces throughout.
3. We picked up tons of historical titbits: such as how a single pump in Soho (Broad St) infested the entire area with cholera, and the origin of the term ‘whipping boy’ (ouch).
4. In Horrible Histories: More Best of Barmy Britain, history is brought to life by just two talented actors, Ashley Bowden (Rex) and Laura Dalgleish (Queenie). Between them, they play anyone from Queen Elizabeth I to Henry VIII, Shakespeare, Dick Turpin, and one poor guy whose job was wiping royal bottoms. I
shit kid you not.
5. Audience participation. Nope, you can’t avoid it. We were happy to get stuck into dance moves or boos and hisses. Just watch out for the water shooters… and no, you’re not safe in the back seats!
6. Ezra, age 11, says: ‘It was a really entertaining show, suitable for any age although a bit disgusting at times. Well, it’s called Horrible Histories for a reason, isn’t it? I won’t forget when they were eating mice intestines! It was interesting to learn more about how the ends of names of British towns and cities tell you where they were from e.g. Viking, Roman or Saxon. So Grimsby is originally Viking because ‘by’ means ‘village’ in Viking!’
7. Jed, age 8, says: ‘I think it was really funny and also disgusting. Especially when the groom was wiping his eyes and his face with the cloth that he’d used to wipe King Henry’s bum! I’d say it’s best for people ages 3 and over because younger people might find it too horrible! I would rate the show 5 stars.’
Get thee to Garrick Theatre, me olde mucker. You and your sprogs will LOVE Horrible Histories… or I’ll eat my goblet.
Horrible Histories: Did You Know?
Based on the multiple award-winning children’s books by author/actor Terry Deary and illustrator Martin Brown, Horrible Histories is the world’s bestselling children’s history series. A mass ‘read-in’ of Horrible Histories: Measly Middle Ages by parents and kids at Warwick Castle set a new Guinness World Record in 2014.
Horrible Histories: More Best of Barmy Britain is playing until SEPTEMBER 2 at Garrick Theatre, 2 Charing Cross Road, London WC2H 0HH (Leicester Square/Charing Cross Rd tube). Shows at 2pm & 4pm (Mon), 11.30am (Wed-Fri), 10am & 12pm (Sat-Sun). Tickets £15. NB: you can also look for 1 KIDS GO FREE ticket with every full price adult (2nd & 3rd child half price) as part of Kids Week throughout August. The show is recommended for ages 5 to 105.