REVIEW: Horrible Histories, Barmy Britain Part Four (Apollo Theatre) ★★★

The commercial juggernaut that is the Horrible Histories franchise is back with another sideways look at British history. Once again Birmingham Stage Company brings its knowledge of how to keep children entertained to the party and the well worn formula for success is delivered slickly and professionally.

Knowing what the audience of children wants is key and writer/director Neal Foster ensures there isn’t much subtlety to it. Plenty of fart jokes in just the first sketch set the tone and scatological humour dominates throughout. Song and dance routines give the show an almost music hall feel whilst pop culture references link the past to the present. Everything from Brexit to Love Island gets thrown into the mix with Boris Johnson and Bob the Builder amongst the many targets. Of course there is flossing too. The pace is frenetic to make sure attention spans are not troubled and at 70 minutes the running time is just as child friendly.

The two actors Neal Foster and Anthony Spargo deliver the jokes and songs with gusto and no lack of skill. They know what they are doing is silly and just embrace the daftness, often including the audience in knowing nods and looks.

Set design is kept to a minimum, especially as the show is squatting in someone else’s theatre but Jacqueline Trousdale’s costume changes are well planned and slickly achieved without any need to leave the stage. Matthew Scott’s music and Kenn Oldfield’s choreography fit perfectly into the formula too.

This is not for the purists but as my 11 year companion put it, this is the most immature thing he has seen but he genuinely meant this as a compliment.

Reviewed by Kris Witherington
Photo: Mark Douet


Buy tickets to West End theatre shows (some great discounted offers)
Subscribe to my mailing list for all the latest theatre news, special offers and competitions