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Fun for all the family, as the famous royal dynasty tells torrid tales of treachery and torture


Review: HORRIBLE HISTORIES - TERRIBLE TUDORS, Garrick Theatre If you grow up and go to school in England, you will definitely know about the Tudors - and yet we seem to have a completely insatiable appetite for this set of monarchs that merely spanned three generations.

This general hunger (as well as 2022 being the jubilee year of another Queen Elizabeth) almost guarantees that the latest Horrible Histories stage show will be an instant hit - and it's a real win-win situation for parents, as the show will keep their kids entertained for an hour whilst maybe learning a thing or two.

Dr Dee (Ben Martin) and Drabb (Emma Swan) are armed with an impressive set of costumes, a handful of puppets, several props, and boundless enthusiasm: everything you need to bring the Tudors to life.

The show itself begins in 1483 with the Tudor origin story (Henry Tudor defeating Richard III to become Henry VII), before telling a range of stories associated with the different monarchs' reigns, and ending with the ascension of the Stuarts in 1603. Though it's understandable, due to the compact running time and the iconic nature of two particular monarchs, it does feel a bit of a shame that Henry VII, Edward VI, and Mary I have relatively little exposure in comparison with Henry VIII and Elizabeth I.

It's encouraging to hear the Tudors being described as a "cruel and ruthless family", as well as fleeting mentions of Elizabeth and Sir Francis Drake's roles in the transatlantic slave trade, as this gives the audience more of a background into the lives of these famous characters. On the other hand, the show perpetuates the Shakespearean image of Richard III as a hunchbacked pantomime villain; this is presumably done to make the Tudors the heroes of the story, despite it being inconsistent with the overall message about how horrible they were. Children can, and should, be trusted with up-to-date facts.

Terry Deary and Neal Foster's script is rather reliant on alliterative phrases, which does get a little wearing, though the brilliantly groan-worthy puns and nods to Carry On and Monty Python-style humour do elevate it somewhat - and ensures that there's something that will amuse the adults in the audience. There is also a smattering of catchy songs throughout the show, which children are sure to be irritating their parents with over the course of the summer holidays.

Jacqueline Trousdale's costume design is to be commended, as it effortlessly encapsulates the well-known Tudor style of dress whilst remaining incredibly practical for the actors - most of the time they will complete a quick change onstage, transforming from one famous monarch to another in the blink of an eye.

A four-person family ticket costs £85 on weekdays and £100 on weekends, which does feel a little steep for an hour's worth of entertainment (especially in this time of economic crisis), but if you are able to afford it this show is well worth the effort.

There's enough audience participation to keep younger patrons interested, though not so much that it becomes overwhelming for everyone in the auditorium, and it's an excellent stepping stone to a future love of history. The perfect summer holiday show.

Terrible Tudors is at the Garrick Theatre until 3 September

Photo Credit: Mark Douet

From This Author - Debbie Gilpin

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