Based on the books by Terry Deary
Director: Neal Foster
Reviewer: Jay Nuttall
If we want Britain to be pure we’re 2000 years too late. This apt reminder of the fluidity of this country’s past is the subject matter of Birmingham Stage Company’s Incredible Invaders. Part of Terry Deary’s hugely successful Horrible Histories books (and hit CBBC sketch show) this show is partnered with Groovy Greeks – playing on alternative nights.
Horrible Histories (as most of the population know) is all about bringing the past to life. If only every history lesson was as this much fun. Comprised of sketches and songs, the cast of four cram 1,000 years of British history into an 80-minute show. Accompanied by our narrator, Mavis, we begin way back with the arrival of The Romans in 43 AD. And we whizz along at lightning speed through the next millennium up to the arrival of William and The Normans in 1066.
Using a variety of modern references we are treated to an episode of Grand Designs about building Roman roads, The Great British Bash Up as we follow Boudicca’s attempt to regain Britain’s independenceand even a Saxon Come Dine With Me as we learn about the disgusting table habits of this ancient race. And along the way we meet a variety of names from our past we may have heard of but know next to nothing about, such King Alfred or Ethelred the Unready as well as a host of hilariously named Vikings.
What is appealing about all Horrible Histories is how accessible it is to the whole family. How many adults really know what happened in this troublesome period when, seemingly, Britain was invaded every few weeks? I know I certainly learned about the derivation of town names like Chester, Derby and Scarborough. How long and high was Hadrian’s Wall really? And how long did it take to build? And as the old Monty Python adage goes – what did the Romans ever do for us?
As with the sister show, Groovy Greeks, the show steps up a gear after the interval after the audience don their ‘bogglevision’ glasses and the interactive computer audio-visual computer screen that serves as the backdrop onstage becomes three dimensional. The facts and figures still come thick and fast but are this time accompanied with arrows, snakes and snarling dogs to make us jump.
With performers changing costumes and characters every few minutes, they certainly work their socks off as they wittily enact how the Romans, Celts, Saxons, Angles, Vikings and Normans have all added into our melting pot.
Runs at The Lowry until 9April in repertoire with Groovy Greeks | Image: Contributed