Horrible Histories: More Best of Barmy Britain – Belgrade Theatre, Coventry

Writers: Terry Deary and Neal Foster

Director: Neal Foster

Reviewer: Nicole Craft

“Whoa…look at the setup!”; The first words uttered by a younger member of this reviewer’s party as we enter the auditorium. It’s not the most staggering stage-set ever witnessed, but the two medieval tents and the array of costumes already present, hanging from two elaborate hat stands, are clearly enough to pique the interests of Horrible Histories’ target audience – the wonder of being let into the secret of what might be to come, perhaps?

The lights dim and our hosts for the evening, Rex (Benedict Martin) and Roger (Pip Chamberlin) bound onto the stage with child-like delight, almost instantly raising laughs and getting the audience invested – a tough ask given this is essentially cleverly disguised half-term homework! Their task, for the next 70 minutes, is to take us on a whistle-stop tour around Barmy Britain and its history. From why so many villages end in ‘by’ to why Field Marshall Haig would be fired by Alan Sugar, had he commissioned him to take our country to war, we are whisked from era to era, learning as we go.

With the facts presented in a variety of mediums, the costumes pleasingly elaborate and with plenty of mentions of poo, there is mostly enough to keep the audience’s attention from waning. There is the odd moment that provides potential for distraction, seemingly an error with scripting over anything else, mostly witnessed in the King Charles Rap, which although performed in a poetic regal-cum-chap-hop style by Chamberlin, is too quick to understand at times and takes a huge amount of effort to keep up with.

Of the very few faults this production does have, not a single one can be attributed to the absolutely awesome Martin and Chamberlin who give it everything they have got and succeed in winning over children and adults alike (The Fast Show sketch certainly helping with the adults). The pair combines absurd camaraderie with perfectly-pitched toilet humour to sing, stink and story-tell their way through yet more of Britain’s, somewhat gruesome history and are clearly a match made in theatrical heaven.

This last paragraph would normally be a reviewer’s prime opportunity to provide a fitting and nicely-worded summary of the production as a whole, but given we’ve had the first words uttered by one of those whose opinions arguably matter most, it feels fitting to end with the last; “That was soooo good!” – There’s not much more to say, really.

Runs Until 2 June 2018 and on tour | Image: Jack Sain

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