Horrible Histories promised to deliver a performance with all the nasty bits left in, and deliver they did.
With typically British sensibilities, the performers had the room full of adults and children laughing at even the most macabre of subjects. At one point, the whole room was singing heartily together about the unfortunate fates of Henry VIII’s six wives and at another time, chanting about the “Tyburn jig”.
Traversing hundreds of years of history, from the time of the Vikings to World War II, the two actors, Alison Fitzjohn and Neal Foster, effortlessly brought multiple personalities from Britain’s past back to life.
Some characters, like Henry VIII, are more well known. Others, such as Amelia Dyer, have been obscured by time. Nonetheless, in all cases, it was mesmerising to watch the two actors transform themselves, with the help of a few simple stage props and pure theatrical skill, into each character.
As a child, I remember being fascinated by history and wading through children’s history books. There was no wading here. Historical facts and nuggets were presented in immensely entertaining ways and the actors were interactive and engaging. At one stage, Neal even decided do a “Gangnam Style” dance in Tudor garb, which drew quite a few laughs from the audience.
For their efforts, the actors were rewarded with audience’s enthusiastic participation and they did not have to do much to elicit responses from the audience.
While watching English history with young ones may seem daunting at first, it was nice to see my own young companions laughing along with the plots. Even if they had to grapple at times with the English accents, the physical humour and contorted facial expressions of the actors were more than enough to keep them entertained. So much so that even as we left the theatre, it was nice to hear them chattering on about their newly discovered historical nuggets.
Barmy Britain is a great piece of children’s theatre where children are not talked down to but instead invited to laugh along with the actors. If you are looking for a smart, entertaining and honest retelling of some unfortunately horrid bits of history, be sure to pop by the DBS Arts Centre – Home of the SRT before this show is…err…history.
Barmy Britain is playing from 31 January to 9 February 2013.
Ruthless Romans is playing from 3 to 10 February 2013.
For children aged 7 and above and their families.
For more details, visit www.kidsfest.com.sg