BWW Reviews: HORRIBLE HISTORIES: BARMY BRITAIN, Lyceum, Sheffield, July 17 2014
Barmy Britain is the latest Horrible Histories touring production from The Birmingham Stage Company. The show, based on Terry Deary's hugely popular books, takes us on a tour of the more gruesome parts of British history from the Romans and Celts until World War 1. Those familiar with the Horrible Histories books and TV show will be pleased to know that the stage show is on familiar territory, mixing slapstick, sketches and songs to give history a contemporary and fun twist.
The show is educational (although this may be more for the grown-ups - my almost-seven-year old companion seemed to have a much better grasp of history than me and knew all about the figures featured), but it is also silly, gruesome and very funny - as you would expect from the Horrible Histories brand. The four-strong cast (Alison Fitzjohn, Benedict Martin, Laura Dalgleish and Gary Wilson) perform with exceptional energy, belting out songs, dancing, engaging in rapid costume changes and pulling excellent expressions with barely a pause for breath.
The second half of the show features a 3D backdrop requiring the wearing of 3D glasses, which I found a bit headache-inducing, but when bats, skulls, rats and various other horrors came out of the screen towards the audience it caused lots of screams of horror-infused delight from the audience's younger members in particular - some of those moments were the favourites of my young friend, although her favourite part by far was a sketch involving Dick Turpin, which she couldn't talk about afterwards without collapsing into fits of giggles.
The show is a riotous night of entertainment, and it's also a masterclass in performance, with all four actors demonstrating real gifts for comedy and timing, and (the many) costume and scene changes being effected swiftly and unobtrusively.
Horrible Histories: Barmy Britain is on tour nationally throughout 2014. Dates here: http://barmybritain.com/tour/#/tour