Monday, 16 December 2013

Horrible Christmas by Terry Deary at Derby Theatre: a review

A theatre packed with excitable small children and some adults is a surprisingly good place to be at 10.15 in the morning. The children have few inhibitions and love to be entertained and to be encouraged to join in and be loud - joyously loud and even louder than that, when prompted! Kids and adults alike love Terry Deary's Horrible Histories and this is a fun festive version live on stage and the audience loved it. What was that? I said "They LOVED IT!!!"

Horrible Christmas at Derby Theatre (in conjunction with Birmingham Stage Company) is a magical and wondrous story featuring time travel, a villainous Santa character, a little boy called Watson and Shirley Holmes the detective. Bad Sidney Claus (Andrew Vincent) hates Christmas and delights in stealing children's presents aided and abetted by a prancing and silly Rudolf the reindeer (Simon Shnashall). Vincent and Shnashall work brilliantly together and Shnashall plays Rudolph just the right side of barmy while Vincent seems to revel in being the - not too scary - baddy.

Mark Newnham, as the boy called Watson, quickly gets the eagerly participating audience on his side as he cheekily undoes some of his Christmas presents too early. His parents catch him out and tell him not to open any more until morning. However all goes wrong as he secretly witnesses Sidney Claus and Rudolf break into the house and steal all his other presents from under the tree. Sidney Claus is determined to ruin Christmas for everyone, not just now but forever, with his evil doings. What to do? Watson's parents would never believe him.

Enter Shirley Holmes time travelling detective with her time travelling tricycle and off they go back in time to visit the Tudor court of Henry the Eighth and his new wife Katherine, the fun cancelling world of Oliver Cromwell, the song and campery of Charles II and to London in 1843 to help Charles Dickens out of his writer's block and create a timeless ghost story about a man called Scrooge. Will Holmes and Watson stop Sidney Claus and Rudolph from ruining hundreds of years of Christmas celebrations and festive joy?

Sarah Pelosi plays Holmes with great panache and energy and much fun is had as the tricycle flies across the back of the stage in hot pursuit of the dastardly Sidney and Rudolf on their own time travelling contraption. The kids in the audience responded with a universal "Wow!" as the time travel effects took place. Actors Luke Foster, Jo Mousely, Christopher Chilton and Elizabeth Rose complete the Horrible Christmas team and play multiple roles with enormous humour and dexterity. There are daft songs, dancing, even dafter actions, a panto style singalong and the whole piece is (as you'd expect from Horrible Histories) lots of fun and full of gruesome historically horrible facts flitting through the lively script like mad elves at Santa's Grotto. Much hilarity is had in the sometimes camp depictions of historical characters and then towards the end there is another really really, no like REALLY "Wow" moment they visit another place and event in Christmas history when.... Come on you don't think I'm telling you that do you? It would spoil the surprise! And what is Christmas without lovely surprises! Another excellent show from Derby Theatre with superb lighting and set
and sound design by Jason Taylor, Jacqueline Trousdale, and Tom Lishman.

Horrible Christmas by Terry Deary runs from Friday 6th December to Saturday 11th January.

Horrible Christmas is directed by Phil Clark.

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