Review: Terrible Tudors

PUBLISHED: 14:30 19 January 2019

Birmingham Stage Company present Terrible Tudors. Photo by Mark Douet

Birmingham Stage Company present Terrible Tudors. Photo by Mark Douet

Photo by Mark Douet

Horrible Histories is a well-known series of books which have been made into a TV series and now theatre productions which bring the past in all its gruesome glory to life for children in a fun and humorous way, so they do not realise they are actually learning.

So with this firmly in mind, and nothing to do with the fact I was hopeless at the subject at school and need a refresher to help my 10-year-old son with his schoolwork, I headed to the Playhouse in Weston to catch a show about the Terrible Tudors last night (Friday) before he actually studies the time period in class.

We went with my best friend and her daughter of the same age who loves the books to see if she found the production lives up to her expectation from reading them.

The High Street theatre has also been showing the Awful Egyptians this week alongside the Tudors one.

Produced by the Birmingham Stage Company, the shows use three actors playing all the parts and 3D special effects to provide the dramatic backdrops and sounds.

From the horrible Henries to the end of evil Elizabeth, the audience heard the legends (and the lies!) about the torturing Tudors.

The cast go through each monarch in the Tudor family in turn, telling how they wreaked revenge on their enemies and murdered their way through their respective reigns to hold onto their crowns, failing miserably to win popularity with their people in the process.

The facts are revealed in a fun way which captures the audience’s interest and imagination from beginning to end, using modern-day topical references and silly songs to help young and old to remember the important bits.

A catchy dittie, (it’s been going around in my head ever since!) including the audience singing along and copying the actions, made light work of learning the what-can-be-confusing fate of Henry VIII’s six wives.

And using a gang warfare mentality to illustrate how the two factions of Christians, the Catholics and the breakaway band of Protestants continually fought against each other, causing many wars at the time, and why Henry fell out with the Pope and started his own church is an amazing way of de-mystifying what can be a very complex issue to understand, even for grown-ups!

One of the best bits was the acting out of Queen Elizabeth I’s best-known coup, the Spanish Armada, as the 3D screen really brought the strategy behind the campaign to life and the youngsters were delighted to see burning ships sail off the stage and into the audience through the wizardry of the 3D effects.

Considering I was not the best historian at school, I have always been fascinated by the subject and greedily devour films and TV dramas depicting pretty much any time period, so I very much enjoyed this recap of the Tudor family history.

And my son, who is at the pre-teen age where he is a tough-crowd, said he did too, and I even caught a smile and chuckle or two during the show.

His friend was in her element though, giggling all the way through at the silliness and thoroughly enjoying herself, which made the evening extremely worthwhile.

The acting trio were fabulous at holding everyone’s attention, which is not always easy with the younger audience members, and delivered the humour behind the grizzliness of the era with brilliant comic timing and made it great fun for all ages.

The show is coming to the end of its run this afternoon but I urge anyone who relishes a slice of macabre murder and mayhem, with a side order of mirth and merriment to their history lessons, to catch it next time around.

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