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Show type: Edinburgh Fringe 2012
Horrible Histories: Barmy Britain
We all want to meet people from history. The trouble is everyone is dead! So it's time to prepare yourselves for Horrible Histories live on stage! Have you ever wondered why the Romans never won MasterChef? What if a Viking moved in next door? Has William Wallace met his match? Would you lose your heart or head to Henry VIII? Will Parliament survive gunpowder Guy? Escape the clutches of Burke and Hare and find out what a baby farmer did! Don't miss this horrible history of Britain with the nasty bits left in!
Horrible Histories : Fringe 2012
Given the strength of the brand name, it isn't surprising that this has been doing brisk business at one of the Fringe's larger venues. But how does it compare with its award-winning precursor? Sadly... not at all well.
It clearly had to be representative of the hit BBC programme from which it spawned, but many of the elements that persuaded the British Comedy Awards to hand over the gong for best sketch show last year are missing. For a start, the television incarnation has a cast of six regulars... the stage show has just two and neither of these appear regularly on the television show.
Despite performances of commensurate professionalism from Neal Foster and Alison Fitzjohn, this version of Horrible Histories lacks the anarchic dynamism of the version on CBBC and this didn't go unnoticed by young fans. Alexander, nine, was disappointed when he realised that the two people who opened the show were its only performers, noting sagely that, ‘it would have been better if some of the people from the telly were in it’. Sasha, ten, added that ‘it wasn't nearly as good as the TV programme’ and that ‘it went on too long’.
The stage show was much more song-orientated than the television programme but otherwise it was a fair distillation of the broadcast version's subject matter, working chronologically through familiar periods of history. Clever costume changes kept Foster and Fitzjohn on their toes and maintained the show's impressive momentum, which helped sustain the audience's interest. But Barmy Britain is much more like a pantomime than a comedy show and there is little evidence of the sharp writing that wins awards.
The darkest strand was provided by the tale of Jessie King who was hanged in 1889 for infanticide. Together with a segment devoted to the misadventures of murdering grave-robbers Burke and Hare, this section appeared to have been included to give the show a touch of local history. Unsurprisingly there weren't a great deal of laughs generated by King's story but this part of the show was much more in keeping with the macabre spirit of the television programme and Alexander identified it as his favourite bit.
Producers really owe it to their young fans to ensure that at least one of those who appeared on the screen makes it on to the stage – and this proves a considerable handicap for this show.
|Date of live review: Thursday 23rd Aug, '12|
Review by Jason Stone
Deeeply ignorant and uninformed view. The stage versions predate the TV by a long way and were not "spawned" by it. The stage versions are more true to the ethos of the books. Nor do they ever make claim to be TV related. Alexander was misinformed and it is not the fault of the company if he expected to see TV actors.
It may have escaped your notice (by the distinct lack of BBC references etc) but the stage show has no association with the TV show by the BBC. The stage stage show, like the TV series are both based on the Terry Deary books. Therefore the expectation to include cast members from the TV series are not realistic. Maybe jumping to conclusions isn't the best form of critical comment.
It's an adaptation of the books, NOT the TV show (which is another adaptation of the books), so it is wrong to criticise it's lack of recognisable TV faces.