Siobhan Godwood reviews the Corn Exchange’s Horrible Christmas show
Fancy getting the family into the festive spirit, and learning a bit about the history of Christmas along the way? Then you can’t go wrong with a trip to see Horrible Christmas at Cambridge Corn Exchange. Just like the popular CBBC Horrible Histories series from which it takes its name, the show wears its education value lightly, focusing on energetic, hilarious entertainment, and blending the ‘history’ aspect in so cleverly that you hardly notice that you’re learning while you laugh!
The show opens on a very ordinary family Christmas scene: a little girl sneaking down late at night to shake and rustle her parcels. But soon things take an unexpected turn, when an evil, twisted version of Santa – Sidney Claus – arrives to steal all the family presents. The little girl overhears his evil plan to travel through time, destroying Christmas as he goes, and puts in an emergency call to Shirley Holmes, a famous detective, to help her scupper his dastardly plan.
This sets the stage for a rumbustious race through some of the key moments in Christmas History: the Victorian Era, where we meet Charles Dickens searching for inspiration for a festive bestseller; the reign of Oliver Cromwell and his attempts to put puritan dampeners on the Christmas spirit; Tudor Times, and the food-stuffed court of Henry VIII, and finally a trip to the very first Christmas in Bethlehem.
The show is jampacked with brilliant, catchy tunes, hilarious jokes, and lots and lots of audience participation. I went with children aged between 7 and 12, and they all loved it, joining in with the songs and shouting along to boo the baddy and cheer on the heroine. The cast have pitched this exactly right, and have added in lots of traditional panto elements to get the audience feeling that they’re having a really proper, Christmassy theatre outing.
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