Theatre review: Terrible Tudors, King’s Theatre, Glasgow

Lisa Allen, Izaak Cainer and Simon Nock in Terrible Tudors PIC: Mark Douet
Lisa Allen, Izaak Cainer and Simon Nock in Terrible Tudors PIC: Mark Douet
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REMEMBER 1066 and All That, Sellar & Yeatman’s hilarious 1930 satire on the conventional narrative of British history? Well, take the spirit of Sellar & Yeatman, deck it out in gaudy cartoon colours, and launch it into the world of ruthless 21st century marketing for children and young people, and you have a rough approximation of the Horrible Histories, originally written by Terry Deary, Peter Hepplewhite and Neil Tonge to provide school-age readers with an entertaining comic introduction to key moments in history, and now also a popular stage and screen franchise.

Terrible Tudors, King’s Theatre, Glasgow ***

This month, both the Terrible Tudors and the Awful Eygptians are visiting Scotland; and if you can bear up bravely to the fact that the Terrible Tudors has been adapted not at all for Scottish audiences, who find themselves addressed as a 16th-century English crowd throughout, then there is huge amount of fun and ingenuity to be enjoyed in Benedict Martin and Neal Foster’s production, performed with zest by Simon Nock, Izaak Cainer, Lisa Allen and Jamie Sheasby.

One of the most striking aspects of the play is its liberal use of panto techniques to tell the story; there’s loads of slapstick, plenty of booing, some silly arithmetic, and even a sing-song competition. The overall message is that the Tudors were a notably bloody bunch, who chopped off people’s heads without a second thought; and as we all don our 3-D goggles for the second half, and enjoy the odd gunpowder explosion and burning at the stake, there are plenty of laughs and shrieks to revel in, if not much historical nuance.

JOYCE MCMILLAN

King’s Theatre, Glasgow, until tomorrow and King’s Theatre, Edinburgh, 13-16 June