History comes alive on the stage of London’s Garrick Theatre with the wickedly hilarious and gruesomely delightful production of “Horrible Histories: Terrible Tudors.” Co-written by Terry Deary and Neal Foster, this play takes the audience on a thrilling journey through one of history’s most outrageous families, the Tudors, while seamlessly blending humour, education, and entertainment.
The play opened on 1st August, with previews from 27th July, running until 2nd September, and boasts a wickedly talented cast, including Neal Foster, Emma Swan, and Jack Ballard (alternate). With only two actors on stage, they deliver commendable performances, creating a vibrant atmosphere throughout the show.
The main objective of “Horrible Histories: Terrible Tudors” is to educate the audience about the Tudors in a fun and engaging way. The play achieves this through a clever combination of historical accuracy and entertaining storytelling. Kids and adults alike are in for a treat as they enjoy the plethora of jokes, including political satire and child-friendly humour, keeping the entire audience laughing.
The set, although minimal, proves to be remarkably effective. Two masts adorned with an array of costumes serve as a versatile backdrop, transporting us seamlessly between different historical figures. The simple yet imaginative set design allows the audience to focus on the engaging performances and captivating performances.
Neal Foster, as both co-writer and performer, impressively nails the comic and satirical moments, injecting the perfect dose of wit and charm. Emma Swan’s delightful portrayal entertains the kids, often playing a sillier role. Their chemistry on stage keeps the energy high and the audience hooked.
The play manages to bridge historical gaps with a “Historical Crimeline,” providing enough detail to educate without overwhelming the younger audience members. It brilliantly weaves the lives of historical figures such as Henry VII, Henry VIII, Edward VI, Mary I, and Elizabeth I into a cohesive and entertaining narrative.
The clever use of music, sound effects, and choreography by Kenn Oldfield enriches the production, making it a treat for both the eyes and ears. The sound effects are timed to perfection, enhancing the comedic moments and historical reenactments, adding depth to the overall experience. Some of the songs, however, seem a little dated and perhaps future iterations of the show will adjust/alter/remove some of these.
Audience engagement is paramount in this production. The play frequently involves the audience through interactive elements, including songs and actions, keeping the kids thoroughly engaged and invested in the performance. The play’s creative use of lighting elevates the performances and enhances the atmosphere, particularly during the more intense and dramatic sequences.
The show strikes a fine balance between historical accuracy and entertaining storytelling. It emphasises the entertaining elements of the historical tales, using humour to make the potentially gruesome subject matter more approachable for young minds. As an audience, we are treated to a captivating and memorable experience, witnessing the iconic moments of the Tudor era, including Henry’s headless wives and his clash with the Pope. The historical events are presented with enough detail to educate and entertain without becoming overly graphic or intimidating for younger viewers.
Birmingham Stage Company’s proud history of producing theatre for children shines through in this delightful production. The passion and dedication of the cast and creative team are evident, as they transport us through history with flair and panache. While the show might benefit from some updating and fine-tuning, it undeniably succeeds in inspiring a love for theatre and history in young audiences. In addition, I was very pleased to see that the theatre offers family deals and affordable ticket options for families (see website for more detail).
“Horrible Histories: Terrible Tudors” is a must-see for families looking to embark on an educational and entertaining adventure together, celebrating “30 Horrible Years” of this beloved children’s history series.
Horrible Histories: Terrible Tudors plays at the Garrick Theatre until 2nd September. Tickets available from the Garrick website or here.