Horrible Histories - Barmy Britain

Terry Deary, Neal Foster and Ciaran McConville

Birmingham Stage Company

Pleasance Courtyard

From 03 August 2012 to 26 August 2012

Rating: *****

Review by Robin Strapp

The capacity audience of enthusiastic children of all ages and their parents and grandparents were eagerly awaiting this record-breaking West End show Horrible Histories – Barmy Britain.

This 60-minute romp through British history is performed by Alison Fitzjohn and Neal Foster and they know exactly how to engage a young audience. It has catchy songs, loads of visual gags, audience participation panto-style—and the audience were completely engaged and enjoying every gruesome story with relish.

We start with the Romans and their culinary skills which are presented as a Masterchef episode. They were disgusting as they cooked putrefied fish guts and roasted dormouse and it was considered polite to vomit, and the kids loved it.

Swiftly moving on to the Vikings in a spoof version of the television programme Location Location Location, they conquer and take over Lindisfarne, killing the monks in the progress.

Being in Scotland, there are appearances of William Wallace and Robert the Bruce as King Edward tries to take over Scotland.

The great Tudor King Henry VIII and his six wives are given a makeover. The kids join in with the history lesson explaining each wife’s death, and there is a great rap song.

Guy Fawkes is a contestant on a version of Who Wants to be a Millionaire and all of the formula is used including asking the audience and phoning a friend and Guy’s prize is, of course, a penny.

Two further Scottish stories included "Bones in their Pockets" about Burke and Hare and Jessie King the baby farmer.

Florence Nightingale features, as does Field Marshal Haig who is fired by Alan Sugar in a version of The Apprentice for killing so many men.

There are wonderful one-liners, groan-making puns and it’s all tremendous fun.

You will have to fight to get a ticket since it is selling so well, but you and the little ones will not be disappointed.