Review of Horrible Histories 2016 Tour at Northampton
If remembering key dates, names and important events are all Greek to you, take a new perspective on history with an incredibly funny '“ and educational '“ show on until Sunday, June 11, at Northampton's Derngate.
Yes, the Horrible Histories 2016 tour has reached town and boy, does it breathe fresh air into a subject often neglected at school.
This tour, based on the brilliant best-selling series of books by author Terry Deary (who incidentally provides voice-over narrative throughout the show), has two productions running throughout the week: Groovy Greeks and Incredible Invaders.
We were in the audience for a 7pm performance of Groovy Greeks and right from the start, were hooked with this refreshing take on history.
I’ve been a big fan of the laugh-out-loud Horrible Histories books since my children were young and, having never seen the TV versions of them, wondered how well they would translate to stage. There was no need for concern…the techniques used from the offset to get a contemporary family of four on to the stage and then whisk them back in time, were excellent. And the constant parodies with modern-day TV shows to take us from the start of the ancient Greek civilisation to key events like the Trojan War, birth of the Olympic Games and legends of the Gods, were highly amusing.
It took a while for my friend’s nine-year-old son to realise the cast of four – Tom Moores, Holly Morgan, Elliot Fitzpatrick and Evelyn Adams - were not only playing mum, dad and the two children, but every single other role in the show…something which seriously impressed him. The voice of Zeus, narrated by Deary, linked each historic event seamlessly as we were taken through the centuries.
The show had an almost pantomime feel at times with audience participation, singing along and shouting out, and the 3D glasses we were given for the second half added to this atmosphere as giant spiders, spears and boulders leapt out at us as we travelled through the labyrinth to fight off the minotaur with Theseus and fought off the Persian invaders with the Spartans.
There are plenty of laugh aloud moments in Groovy Greeks and the telling of history in a comical manner – such as the way Theseus forgets to put up the right coloured sail to let his father know if he has survived his encounter with the minotaur – is a fail-safe way of making sure the facts sink in. If only Deary’s books had been around when I was sitting an extremely boring and yawn-inducing history A-level, where I was awarded marks by one teacher purely for having an extremely vivid imagination that had managed to conjure up 1,500 words blaming Napoleon III’s defeat at some major battle (which I’d have to Google to remember) on his gallstones, as it was the only thing I could remember from our lessons.
Deary’s books bring history to life in a fantastically funny way and, most importantly, remind us of the relevance and legacy it has in our everyday life. You don’t have to be a child or studying history to enjoy this show, though it probably helps to be a cool nine-year-old who isn’t fazed when huge 3D boulders come hurling off stage towards you.
For more information or to book tickets, visit www.royalandderngate.co.uk.