They’ve conquered cinema, telly and levels up and down the land. Now the Horrible Histories crew have commandeered a vessel for a energetic present that’s half theatre, half sightseeing tour and fired by the identical formulation of shock and gore because the books.
Three years in the past, we noticed the bloodthirsty Horrible Tudors staged within the grassy moat on the Tower of London. This 45-minute river journey departs shut by. Our hosts? Not a speaking rat however a trainer and his unruly pupil (as we speak performed respectively by Roger Parkins and Harriet Munday, from a rotating solid). The pair are on a college journey, with the viewers – together with me and eight-year-old Hilda – turning into fellow college students.
At the very least, we predict that’s the thought. It’s all a little bit of a blur at first. In blazing sunshine, we take our seats on the deck and are quickly cruising previous London landmarks. In lieu of a plot, there’s a barrage of peculiar details and figures impressed by the buildings we cross. “It’s not simply previous historical past,” factors out Hilda. We hear in regards to the capital’s model new 15-mile sewer, whereas a partygate gag by Westminster lets us replicate on the present stench in parliament.
However principally it’s the form of lineup you’d anticipate: Man Fawkes, Mary Tudor, Boudicca and Julius Caesar are all given thumbnail sketches, their tales advised at such a clip that you simply’re left lacking or wanting extra particulars. How come the Kray twins have been on the Tower? Why can’t we hear extra in regards to the ladies who constructed Waterloo Bridge? Who precisely was “my honest girl” in London Bridge’s nursery rhyme?
However no element is spared, in Terry Deary and Neal Foster’s script, of precisely what it meant to be hanged, drawn and quartered. Should you weren’t feeling seasick you may effectively flip inexperienced after the cascade of grisly tales, vomit gags and toilet-humour tunes. “They’re obsessive about poo,” whispers Hilda. In a single scatological rhyming ditty we’re advised precisely why the Thames smells so … er, smelly.
It’s all vigorously performed, with Munday rampaging up and down the deck, sometimes joined in revolt by the trainer. Hilda already is aware of one among their jokes however is able to keep in mind what’s brown and seems like a bell (“dung!”).
There’s a smattering of viewers involvement – “it’s a bit like a panto” – however at instances it’s a bit a lot for her, particularly London’s previous as a whaling port (“poor whales!”) and the lose-lose eventualities for suspected witches put to the swimming take a look at. Amid a lot jollity it’s significantly queasy to listen to light-hearted quips about more moderen historical past such because the 1982 hanging of Roberto Calvi, dubbed “God’s banker”, as we cross beneath Blackfriars bridge. However the register dramatically adjustments for some highly effective dialogue about London’s position within the slave commerce and an account of the exceptional lifetime of Ignatius Sancho.
In Birmingham Stage Firm and Woods Silver Fleet’s manufacturing, with the background noise of social gathering boats and even the river police’s siren, uncommon moments of pleasure and stillness stand out. And on this baking summer season day, the outline of soccer video games as soon as performed on the frozen Thames is someway terribly affecting.