Based on the books by Terry Deary
Director: Neal Foster
Reviewer: Jay Nuttall
“Alright! Don’t make a song and dance about it!” one of the characters declares at one point in the show. For anyone who has lived under a Greek temple for the last decade, this is exactly what Horrible Histories is all about.
As any parent will tell you, the hit CBBC show is just the best history lesson you can get. Based on the books by Terry Deary, everything is designed to bring what might be thought of as the bright past to brilliant life. And with its transition from page to screen and now to stage this thirst for knowledge of the bygone continues like a juggernaut.
Focussing on the ‘groovy’ Greeks this breakneck history zips through thousands of years in just ninety minutes. With a cast of four the skits, sketches and songs come so fast at times it is hard for everyone to keep up. Think The Reduced Shakespeare Company telling us everything they know about ancient Greece. We begin with a Simpsons sketch called The Trojans with Marge, Homer, Bart, Lisa and Mr Burns educating us on the Trojan horse. Shopping channels and Casualty follow in order to impart information on Hippocrates and Thespis. Perhaps more for the adults were taken on Big Brother involving philosophers and The Hungry Games.
With everything set against a huge audio-visual projection that looked a little like a video game the performers interacted with this two-dimensional world – the technical wizardry transporting us from scene to scene. However, it is the second half where this technology really comes into its own. Returning with our “bogglevision” glasses we are treated to 45 minutes of 3D mayhem as we fight the Minotaur, repel the attacking Persians and vote on the Gods in a version of Britain’s Got Talent – the performers interacting with the graphics jumping out at us. Despite the gimmick, it is actually a great piece of inventiveness to keep a younger audience interested for what would have been another half of pretty much the same.
For any fans of the books and programme, this is another step up into fandom. An Easter treat for all the family (parents will enjoy this show too) it is complemented with the partner show Incredible Invaders. A cynical ploy from the producers to sell two lots of tickets maybe? The half-full Lyric Theatre would perhaps suggest that this has not worked as well as they had hoped.
Hitting the ground running everyone removes their bogglevision glasses and leaves the theatre a little wiser about what went on in southern Europe a few thousand years ago. Commercial theatre perhaps but one that, despite its brand power, aims to educate, entertain and inform.
Runs at The Lowry until 9April in repertoire with Incredible Invaders | Image: Contributed