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Review of The (Almost) Complete History Of Britain by The Pantaloons at The Castle Theatre, Wellingborough

It became very apparent quite quickly during History Of Britain that to get full value from the experience, it would be worth regressing to childhood. Targeted at all, but with quite a lean towards the younger members of the audience, I switched off thirty years of life and found it much easier to chortle at The Pantaloons.

Dressed in paint speckled dungarees, the four performers are present in the theatre long before the show is ready to begin. Running through the foyer and mingling with the audience in the stalls selling their programmes, this is already a pretty entertainingly silly night before it begins. Our four performers Edward Ferrow, Kelly Griffiths, Neil Jennings and Alex Rivers have infectiously exuberant personalities and no matter how bad the jokes they throw at us get, you often can't help but have a little chuckle.

The writers responsible are Mark Hayward and Stephen Purcell, who also direct. They drag us through the history of Britain missing out vast amounts of it in the process, but with a soul purpose to entertain in a clownish way. It starts off rather clunky with hard work pieces featuring ancient Britain and a quiz take on War of the Roses that doesn't quite work. However things quickly pick up with the life of Henry VIII dealt with in an extremely funny way.

The Gilbert & Sullivan musical treatment of the Spanish Armada is without doubt the highlight of the show. Magically rewriting some their most well known tunes to tell the tale, with the best their version of The Mikado's I've Got A Little List. This also leads into perhaps the best lead in to the interval I have seen for sometime. Magic!

The second half opened with some audience interaction (hunches down in seat) and the splitting of the audience for the Civil War. I knew my history enough that once I was on the side of the Cavaliers, my days were numbered. The two audience members on stage were great value with their trading insults routine, but I have no idea what is wrong with picking fluff from your belly button.

Highlighting the fact that the best bits of the show were the musical parts the Victorian age done cabaret style was a little gem with a singing Charles Darwin and Florence Nightingale among others, and very funny songs to boot. The Great War was presented with surprising style and refinement for what had been a very much clowning show and it was bold, but quite wonderful to include the work of Wilfred Owen, which was performed wonderfully by Neil Jennings.

The final main piece before the whistle stop tour of the twentieth century was Uptown Abbey, a pastiche of something else completely different to avoid copyright infringement. It moves us between the two wars and provided two of the best comedy moments of the night with a "You rang m'lord" joke and one featuring more than one hat. Great stuff!

So an entertaining night featuring quite a few magic moments of entertainment. Not high art at any point and more Cbeebies that BBC4 but we all need some real stoopid in our life now and again, and the Pantaloons provided that.

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Performance reviewed: Thursday 31st March, 2016 at the Castle Theatre, Wellingborough.

The (Almost) Complete History Of Britain by The Pantaloons was performed at the Castle Theatre , Wellingborough on Thursday 31st March, 2016 only but it currently touring. Details can be found at http://www.thepantaloons.co.uk/

For details about The Castle see their website at http://thecastle.org.uk/


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