REVIEW: Horrible Histories Terrible Tudors, Sunderland Empire, until November 24

Lisa Allen, Izaak Cainer and Simon Nock in a scene from Horrible Histories: Terrible Tudors
Lisa Allen, Izaak Cainer and Simon Nock in a scene from Horrible Histories: Terrible Tudors

Did you know that King Philip of Spain thought his navy would defeat Sir Francis Drake in battle because 'Armada than the English?'

Did you know Queen Elizabeth I was a fan of Will.i.am Shakespeare and that they would sing 'I've Gotta Feeling' together?

Queen Elizabeth I (Lisa ALlen) and Will.i.am Shakespeare (Simon Nock) in Horrible Histories: Terrible Tudors

Queen Elizabeth I (Lisa ALlen) and Will.i.am Shakespeare (Simon Nock) in Horrible Histories: Terrible Tudors

And did you know that King Henry VIII was inspired to write 'Greensleeves' because he saw Anne Boleyn wiping her snotty nose on her dress?

None of those may be strictly true but that's all part of the magic formula of the hugely successful Horrible Histories series as creator Terry Deary fuses fun and fact together to guarantee there is laughter in learning.

The Sunderland-born author makes a cameo appearance back on home soil as two of his Horrible Histories books - Terrible Tudors and Awful Egyptians - are brought to life on stage by the acclaimed Birmingham Stage Company.

On this evening, it is Terrible Tudors we are watching - a raucous recap of the lives and times of Henry Tudor, Henry VIII, Elizabeth I, Bloody Mary and Mary Queen of Scots.

Simon Nock as Henry VIII and Lisa Allen as Anne Boleyn in Horrible Histories: Terrible Tudors

Simon Nock as Henry VIII and Lisa Allen as Anne Boleyn in Horrible Histories: Terrible Tudors

The audience gets a most enjoyable history lesson from Dr Dee (Simon Nock) and his pupils Drab (Izaak Cainer) and Dross (Lisa Allen) who take on the roles of all of the key characters.

There's lots of mock beheadings and butchery (Terry Deary's dad was a butcher, after all), a football-themed explanation of the Protestant/Catholic religious rift of the era and a memorable audience singalong section which, once you've heard, will ensure you never ever forget the respective fates of the six wives of Henry VIII.

The show gets even better after the interval when it's time to put on the 3D glasses and dodge explosives, canonballs and flying timber as the Spanish Armada sails on to the backdrop screen for its moment of reckoning in the English Channel.

There are some lessons when you cannot wait for the bell but with Horrible Histories you simply cannot get enough.

Lisa Allen, Simon Nock and Izaak Cainer in a scene from Horrible Histories: Terrible Tudors

Lisa Allen, Simon Nock and Izaak Cainer in a scene from Horrible Histories: Terrible Tudors

It's educational. It's entertaining. It's excellent.

* Horrible Histories runs until November 24. Tickets for both shows are available from the Box Office on High Street West, via the ticket centre 0844 871 3022* or www.ATGtickets.com/Sunderland

ISOBEL OLIVER