You could say that I’ve been a fan of the theatre since I went along to the Regent Theatre with my mum (and a Walnut Whip) to watch a little ginger haired Annie step on stage. My eyes welled up listening to them sing “Tomorrow” (nothing to do with me relating to Annie being a frizzy little ginger urchin like myself) and seeing one of my favourite films being brought to life on stage was an amazing experience. It was from that moment that my love affair with the theatre began and every time I visit the theatre I always say the same thing… I wish there was more of a younger presence at the performances to feel what I felt at that first show.
As much as the cinema is amazing for big budget blockbuster films and popcorn, theres something so incredibly endearing and lovely about watching a story unfold infront of your eyes on one stage. And much as you can lose yourself in a film, theatre productions are much more immersive than a visit to the local Odeon. The magic comes from seeing the the stage set up, the live band, that raw emotion and sharing a moment (be it of laughter or sadness) with other audience members who are just as involved in the production as you are. When you combine this theatrical magic with the incredible enthusiastic and open imaginations of children, you’re on for a winner.
Whenever I’ve taken my friends children or my 7 year old niece to the theatre, their reaction reminds me of what I imagine 8 year old Charl would have been like watching Annie. If you’ve ever been to a panto surrounded by hundreds of children, you’ll be well aware of that wide eyed trance like expression, the clapping hands and giggles.
I always think to myself “this is what the theatre needs more of”; shows which appeal to children and aren’t so far removed from what they already watch on TV or read about. Something so that they can begin their love affair at an early age, so they can progress from panto to film remakes and later in life well up over their teeny tiny strawberry ice cream whilst watching Phantom of the Opera.
Enter Horrible Histories. I know this may seem like the furthest thing from conventional theatre: adapting a childrens book about blood and gore throughout history into an equally as silly yet informative show which comes in at just under two hours.
I took my niece along for an evening of bagged confectionary, education and an auditorium of children and their parents (and I won’t lie, I have a soft spot for Horrible Histories AND the Greeks and taking a child along makes the whole experience a little more socially acceptable).
The narrative explores the history of the Groovy Greeks including a handful of major events on the mythological and actual timeline. The Trojan War and death of Troy, Theseus slaying the minotaur, the physician Hippocrates beliefs about bile, blood and phlegm (yack!) and the origin of the Olympic Games as we know today and the Persian war. Don’t worry about this sounding a bit more history heavy than Horrible Histories, the whole show is brought to life with a combination of a giant digital screen, a 4 person cast, silly jokes, gross bodily noises, costume changes and parodies of famous shows including The Simpsons, Hunger Games and Celebrity Big Brother. There’s even a Groovy Greek take on Britain’s Got Talent which introduces us to Greek Gods Zeus, Aphrodite, Poseidon and Athena to keep the show more groovy than ghastly.
Oh, and did I mention that there’s 3D goggles and (3D) flying spiders? I didn’t did I?
If you’re above the height of 2ft 5, a fully fledged adult and more Hamlet than Horrible Histories, this may not be a show for you to write home about, but it’s fun, informative and will put a smile on your little ones face (and you can pinch a handful of sweets whilst they’re laughing out loud!)
Horrible Histories will run at Regent Theatre in Stoke until Saturday 23rd May and tickets are available online or via the box office.