Theatre review: Horrible Histories: Terrible Tudors, Edinburgh

Horrible Histories' Edinburgh run ends tomorrow. Picture: Submitted
Horrible Histories' Edinburgh run ends tomorrow. Picture: Submitted
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A FIRM favourite with parents, children and award panels alike, CBBC’s Horrible Histories has been hailed as one of the funniest things on TV.

Horrible Histories: Terrible Tudors

King’s Theatre


Despite the franchise’s generation-spanning popularity, however, this stage adaptation of Terry Deary’s book series plays before a predominantly pre-teen audience tonight.

True to the tone of its source material, we are addressed as children, but never once patronised, the show’s frantic pace leaving little room for thorough explanation. Most will undoubtedly struggle to retain the many facts with which we are bombarded, but this is beside the point. The show is certain to instil an interest in the past in those with even the shortest attention spans.

Embodying Deary’s fondness for alliteration, our hosts for the evening are Dr Dee, Dross and Drab, hapless lunatics carted on stage in 16th century attire. No sooner have they begun to regale us with the grizzly details of Richard III’s rise to the throne than does Miss Tree intervene.

Favouring a white-washed view of events, she accuses the troupe of corrupting the minds of children and, in doing so, forges an us-against-them bond between the audience and the performers. Kids evidently love gory trivia and delight as the irrepressible trio thwart their would-be censor.

Over the course of the evening, we learn about the era’s perplexing justice system and unorthodox methods of medical treatment, while spending time with some of its most iconic figures. Dr Dee is as threatening and repulsive as Henry VIII, while Miss Tree’s melodramatic take on Elizabeth I marks the point at which the character succumbs to the madness of her colleagues. With half the show presented in 3D Bogglevision, it’s a truly interactive and immersive experience.

Unfortunately, while the cast are natural clowns who put Deary’s script across with ease, they can’t help the fact that it only encourages limited engagement with the material. However compelling atrocities are, the show does little to encourage empathy with those who experienced these horrors first-hand.

Its irreverence is to be applauded, but does come dangerously close to trivialising its subjects.

• Run ends tomorrow