Review: Horrible Histories' More Best of Barmy Britain at the Coventry Belgrade | Redbrick | University of Birmingham

Review: Horrible Histories’ More Best of Barmy Britain at the Coventry Belgrade

Madeline McInnis reviews a fun performance of the Horrible Histories show, More Best of Barmy Britain.

With an infamous name and countless good memories, I had very high hopes for Horrible Histories: More Best of Barmy Britain live on stage at the Belgrade Coventry, and it did not disappoint. It was a funny and playful mix of topics that most would consider dry, much like we’ve all come to expect from anything Horrible Histories.

It’s genuinely difficult to make something fun and educational at the same time, especially live, and far too often the fun turns into a lecture or you’re focusing too much on how the two elements interact to really enjoy the experience. More Best of Barmy Britain blends them seamlessly, and I learned a lot, even as a history student, while genuinely enjoying myself. In the interactive moments, the crowd was loud and everyone, especially the children, sounded like they were having a great time. 

'the actors really enjoyed what they were doing — they were having as much fun as the audience...'

Fresh off exams, my love for history was faltering, but the show reminded my of why I enjoy history in the first place. It really demonstrates what telling history can be beyond essays and multiple choice questions, and does so in a way which means everyone had fun and left the theatre feeling happy.

Even while singing about silly topics and making jokes about kings pooping, there are some very impressive, noteworthy elements to the script. In particular, there was a moment where the characters explained the origins of town names in Britain. The number of towns ending in “by” that Pip Chamberlain memorized and listed was astounding. The strongest part of the show, however, was the incredibly charismatic way the actors, Chamberlain and Benedict Martin, worked together. There were several moments that they both broke character and laughed at each other’s antics. It was so human and lovely to see.

Even when there was a mistake, it was hard to tell because they played so well off of each other. One of the actors even had water come out of his nose he was laughing so hard, which of course caused a pause in the performance, but laughter from everyone in the room for the entire time, both on and off stage. This only added to the charm of the show, as these moments really proved that the actors really enjoyed what they were doing — they were having as much fun as the audience. That also really showed when they brought the kids onto the stage with them. Everyone was really enjoying the performance, and the feeling was infectious.

Though the humour was particularly geared towards children, there were always a few jokes just for the adults as well, including gags on Theresa May and Lady Jane Grey. It also included several cute modern tie-ins, like Charles II dabbing, which were clever and made this history-buff smile.

'...several cute modern tie-ins, like Charles II dabbing, which were clever and made this history-buff smile.'

For children, and those of us with a short attention span, it was really easy to tell how much longer the show was based on the costuming. The show goes in chronological order from the Romans to World War One, and each segment has a different costume and the rack for all of the different dresses is on stage. As the show goes on, the rack empties to the point that you can count how many more skits there are before the finale. Though I’m sure this is particularly helpful for all the small bladders in the audience, it was helped me to stay focused and engaged with the show. Knowing there were only, say, three more costumes kept me from checking my watch and encouraged me to really enjoy every moment I knew was coming up.

The show closes on 2 June, so if you’re looking to catch it, you better buy your tickets sooner rather than later. It runs for 70 minutes without any intermission, so it makes for a great visit to Coventry for an evening.

More information can be found here.



2nd June 2018 at 8:36 pm

Images from

Belgrade Theatre Coventry