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On Christmas Eve, Watson is up and into his presents - early!! Mum and dad are not best pleased and tell him that everything had better be as they left it, before morning comes. But Watson has opened up 'Horrible Histories "Horrible Christmas"' and we disappear into the book with him. As he takes us into its first pages, Sidney Santa appears and Watson hides to watch this larger than life, and amusingly nasty character, rip up all the presents underneath the tree, preoccupied with one small doll whom he tears apart who brings up for him painful memories of a childhood disagreement with a jealous sister.
This stage story of comic effects and cool lighting, progresses fluidly from scene to scene as those set against one another: Watson and his time-travelling friend and nasty Sidney Santa and his side-kick Rudolph, chase each other through time with Watson intent on saving the Christmas traditions that nasty Santa is trying to destroy.
We visit the Puritans with their comic consternation at all things festive and the camp Charles II, a delightful character who will have you laughing out loud as he minces around the stage, dreaming up his wild plans for a Christmas fully restored. We visit Charles Dickens hatching plans for his Christmas best seller and Henry VIII and Catherine Howard as they set up a feast with a woodcock in a pheasant, a pheasant in a chicken and a chicken in a Turkey - yum, yum!!
There is much to join in with: quizzes and songs, typical panto-style retorts and as our friends and fiends chase each other across the stage, they even seem to fly down on guy-ropes across the heads of the audience.
In amongst all the caper and comedy, there are touching moments: Watson and the crew gather around a tasteful nativity scene in which Christ's birth is handled with awe and sensitivity. We also discover the Bishop who gave rise to the original St Nick. Our dastardly character takes us on a journey into forgiveness and the discovery of meaning and characters are reconciled in unexpected ways as the plot turns and mysteries are revealed. All in all this play is one for all the family. For me it was a genuine laugh-out-loud experience. The actors were really clever and convincing and you felt you really disappeared into the story with them to the extent that you felt quite disappointed when it was over and wanting more. There was not a single dull moment and there were lots of clever surprises. Most of all, I was struck by just how much all the people on stage seemed to be enjoying themselves. I think this is a really worth-while family trip, better than many of the annual pantos that we have been to see as a family. Ten out of ten. Thanks Derby Theatre.Horrible Histories Horrible Christmas is based on the books written by Terry Deary and illustrated by Martin Brown.