Reviewed by Kim Bickerdike
I have a friend who is constantly trying to tell me history is fun!?? Based on this Horrible Histories performance I have to admit he is right!
This performance of Horrible Histories Horrible Christmas gets off to a bit of a slow start, as it sets the plot up with a bad Sidney Santa set on ruining Christmas for all time! It’s up to the boy Watson to team up with the Detective Shirley Homes on a chase through time to try and stop Sidney Santa from changing history and erasing Christmas forever!
The fun really gets going on the first Christmas stop off with Charles Dickens who having something of a crisis of confidence, needs a little help with his Christmas Carol. The plot continues to move back through time, one of the stop-off’s include some Puritan style ’fun’, who despite their dim view of Christmas fail to take the fun out of the performance. Fans of the popular TV show will like the merriment and songs horrible history style, Charles the 2nd is a highlight here, packing in some witty lines, including some slightly edged humour for the grown-ups, along with historical facts.
The stage was kept relatively simple with some effective lighting and projected special effects that added well to the storytelling, the sound effects were well timed with the dialogue and raised much laughter from the audience.
There are some contemporary references thrown in that the kids will like and some humorous jibes about the local area. This stage performance perhaps had a slightly different feel to the TV version with more storytelling and the whole thing has a nod to the panto season with an evil villain and audience participation encouraged, including sing-alongs and some friendly audience rivalry. If you are looking for an alternative to the usual Christmas pantomimes this would be the show for you.
All of the cast do a good job setting the scenes through history and bringing some of the big characters to life such as Henry VIII who provided us with some ‘good’ suggestions as to how we can prepare our Turkey this year for the Christmas dinner. St Nicolas himself continued to add to the plot doing his good deeds with some historical facts escaping out from the comedic performance. St Nicolas most importantly (I think the children will agree) helping to establish present giving as part of Christmas!
At the end the plot ties up cleverly with a twist and a good traditional Christmas story that we would all recognise but I won’t give away any further detail as I wouldn’t want to spoil this lovely ending.
I took with me a ten and twelve-year-old who are both big Horrible History fans, they most enjoyed the one-line gags and songs. Going off the audience and their reactions it would also suit younger children.
The Winter Gardens Opera House in Blackpool is an easy venue to access, it is near to several car parks and the train station. It is a big theatre, we were sat towards the back of the Mid Stalls and had a good view. The show started on time and the interval wasn’t too long, that was especially helpful when with kids.
Tickets cost from £15 (booking fees may apply).
Horrible Histories Horrible Christmas is at the the Blackpool Opera House from 13-29 December 2019, for more information or to book tickets visit www.wintergardensblackpool.co.uk or call the box office on 0844 856 1111.
Winter Gardens & Opera House Theatre, 97 Church Street, Blackpool, Lancashire, FY1 1HL