History Girls at Lowdown At The Albany

Note: This review is from 2009

Review by Steve Bennett

Exactly their name suggests, The History Girls apply an appealingly daft wit to historical figures – most notably 19th Century romantic writers from the Yorkshire Moors. A sort of Brontë Python, if you like.

Their debut show has its peaks and troughs, but boasts a distinctive sense of offbeat humour, confidently playful performances and a rare professionalism. There can’t be many fringe comedy shows with the wardrobe budget this trio require.

In fact, that turns out to be something of an undoing, as the costume changes lead to lengthy blackouts between scenes, dead time that only dissipates any momentum they build up. I later learned that they were due to have a compere, who let them down – but although that would have covered the pauses, it would be hard for this not to jar with the historical ambiance the girls set up. They need to find a way to cover the scene changes themselves.

A director could help here, and perhaps boost the consistency of the hour, in which a few scenes noticeably misfire, but an equal number delight.

Their best moments are the long-form sketches in which they can let their stupidity out, the ridiculous showing off at odds with the buttoned-down eras in which they are set. Their Napoleon, portrayed as an irritating practical joker, is definitely a highlight.

Repetition is the weapon they employ best – not so much in recurring characters, but in doing a gag again and again, slightly bigger each time. In this, they show a keen comic timing and firm command of the ridiculous.

Their Brontë sisters have some fine moments, too, although the sketch about coming up with the Wuthering Heights title which they’ve posted as a calling-card on YouTube isn’t their best.

Having Boudica perform a ‘boudi-licious’ rap is less original, and a similar scene in which a couple of Brontës bump and grind while supposedly being taught the etiquette of formal dancing, executes a near-identical idea much better.

One scene seems at odds the playful spirit of the rest; an ambitious video in which we are supposed to be inside Virginia Woolfe’s head. It’s certainly different – disconcerting even – but seems at odds with the more Knockabout spirit they exhibit so well.

But for a troupe still so new to the comedy scene, Megan Heffernan, Sophie Fletcher and Vanessa-Faye Stanley certainly have potential.

Review date: 12 Nov 2009
Reviewed by: Steve Bennett
Reviewed at: The Albany

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