Horrible Histories – Barmy Britain Review

Horrible Histories: Barmy Britain – Civic Theatre, Darlington

Posted by: The Reviews Hub – Yorkshire & North East 



Writer: Terry Deary, Neal Foster
Music: Matthew Scott
Director: Neal Foster

The Birmingham Stage Company presents Barmy Britain in Darlington. Rog (Gary WIlson) and Rex (Benedict Martin) have to convince parking wardens Esmeralda (Laura Dalgleish) and Queenie (the divinely vocal Alison Fitzjohn) that Britain is Barmy or they will get a parking ticket.

The audience are taken on a trip through time with themes all will recognise, including Boudicca singing ‘I Will Smash You’ to the tune of ‘We Will Rock You’ to the Romans. Phil Spencer does an episode of Location, Location, Location in Lindisfarne with the Vikings and a date between Edward Longshanks and William Wallace is arranged during an episode of Take Me Out. At this performance, a child from the audience was cured of the plague in Wales, while everyone sang a happy song about the symptoms. Blue Peter interviewed a very petulant Henry VIII and Elizabeth I posed as “Betty from London” for Undercover Boss. In a shock revelation, she discovers the executioner doesn’t get paid but does get to keep the clothes of his victims, and that the whipping boy was punished for a Prince’s mistakes as it was an offence to touch royalty (and the Groom of the Stool held the highly prestigious job as Royal Bottom Wiper).

The second half is brought to us by 3d Bogglevision, for which the audience are invited to wear special glasses. Again, we are treated to a very busy Guy Fawkes who (very thoughtfully) spared time tonight to take part in Who Wants to Blow up Parliament, where he has the options to phone a friend, go 50/50 or ask the audience if we think his plan to blow up parliament will succeed.

Barmy Britain takes us from Guy Fawkes to Charles I and II via Oliver Cromwell and an episode of TOWIE starring Dick Turpin and the Essex Gang. There’s even a jaunty tune about being hung at Marble Arch called ‘The Tyburn Jig’.

The show doesn’t miss a beat, as it quickly moves on to a hip hop break dancing Queen Victoria (known as Vicky with a V and Albert with an A). Forward in time to the 1st World War, and the victor decided by way of a WWE wrestling match, but rather beautifully poignant as it includes the dropping of CGI 3D poppies as a sign of respect among the comedy.

We finish on a high as Queenie and Esmerelda agree that Rog and Rex are right and Britain is indeed off-its-rocker barmy, ending with a chorus of Barmy Britain to the tune of ‘If You’re Happy and You Know it’.

Barmy Britain is fast, fun and educational. We learn the Celts put severed heads in rivers as a gift to the Gods, and Longshanks was so called because he was over 6 foot tall and Henry VIII ordered the execution of 72,000 people.

Billed as suitable for ages 6 to 106, the show is fantastic. Borrow some children and get to the Civic before Sunday to see it. It’s a win-win situation, you will love the show and the kids will love you for taking them. Monty Python meets Pantomime via the GCSE History syllabus – this is a show not to be missed!