Horrible Histories: Incredible Invaders at New Wimbledon Theatre
Britain’s beloved Horrible Histories is on stage this week at the New Wimbledon Theatre, with their new show Incredible Invaders. Never before has early British history elicited such raucous enthusiasm from students and teachers alike.
Screams of delight echoed through the theatre as Mavis (played by Hannah Boyce) suffered comically the indignities of repeated invasion. Enslaved by the Romans, pestered by the Scots, divided by the Saxons and then brutalised by the Vikings, she’s utterly exhausted by the Norman Conquest. But she’s enlightened, too. Through her experiences, she comes to see British identity in diversity and adaptation, and as a product of an ongoing process. And the kids see this as well.
But history isn’t all sunshine and rainbows. The play deals remarkably frankly with what is at times a dark and gruesome period. To a chorus of “Ew!” from the crowd, for instance, a particularly brutal form of execution called the “blood eagle” is described and performed. Later, with the help of a 3D screen, the severed head of St Edmund is flung into the children’s screaming faces. It’s all a bit gory, but executed with supreme tact.
It’s a delicate balance they strike, between realism and palatability, education and fun, and its all made possible by a set of fantastic performances and scintillating special effects. The actors deliver lessons and light-hearted fun amidst poisonings and sawn-off tongues; and the on-stage screen makes facts about Roman roads or British place names memorable and engaging.
With its balance of fart jokes and wordplay playgoers young and old are bound to crack up, but never at the expense of learning: “at least you’re not Vikings”, says Mavis to King William — “I think you’ll find we are” he replies. With so much to recommend it, it’s difficult to do it justice here. But then, any review will fail to capture what only its audience’s screams of joy can.
Horrible Histories: Incredible Invaders is on at the New Wimbledon Theatre from 17th May until 21st May, 2016, for further information or to book visit here.
Watch Romans Rufus and Maximus behind the scenes here: