Two Thousand Years Of Facts In Two Hours.

The (Almost) Complete History of Britain.

Walker Theatre

27th April 2016

 

“Where Horrible Histories meets The Reduced Shakespeare company,” One critic had said of this show and that was what was intriguing the audience as they waited patiently in the busy Walker Theatre tonight. In fact it turns out the Pantaloons performance was every bit as clever as the other two. It wasn’t Horrible Histories and It wasn’t the Reduced Shakespeare Company it was instead The Pantaloons,  Almost Complete History Of Britain.

Packed with one liners, great songs and music this show needs no comparison to sell it. Comparison maybe to praise it or to point out what the show might be like, other than that this show stands very nicely in its own skin and is a perfect example of a very well devised ensemble piece.

Employing a Brechtian approach served the material well as Brecht Theatre was about ensuring information gets through the text and into the audience’s minds. He believed in the deconstruction of theatrical conventions and would use songs and signs and saw the actors more as tools for the work of Drama and he didn’t see them as superstars.

Naturally to sum up Brechtian Theatre and all it can achieve into a review is next to impossible and somewhat unecassary. What could be said instead is this is a great piece of Brechtian Theatre and worth seeing for that alone.

So the four players shouldered between themselves two thousand years of our History. Using  wit, (sometimes a little corny) songs and poetry, music and iconography the show encapsulated peak times of our rich history. The iconography was key and moved things forward in a seamless way. For example a Tri-cornered hat was all that was needed for a highwayman, a Tall Hat for Brunel and so on.  All props were on stage or behind three portable stands, that together formed a fragmented Union Jack Flag. Brecht didn’t believe in tricking his audience and thought it better to show the guts of a theatre at work, such as costume changing on stage or the storage of props in plain sight. The Pantaloons proved highly dextrous at all of this.

Starting in the Stone age the audience were taken on a mad break neck speedy ride throughout the following two millennia. Including The War of The Roses, the shenanigans of Henry the Eighth and his penchant for wives,  to the Spanish Armada and Drake’s skill in sinking ships.

The second half began with an introduction to The English Civil War. Some audience members might have been thankful to get this scene over as it called for audience participation, with the house lights on. It was a bit of battle of insults as the audience was split into the opposing sides of the war and hurled tailor made insults at each other.

The show wouldn’t have lost too much if that scene hadn’t been there but the rest of the show continued in the same vein as the first. The house lights were dimmed again and the audience were allowed to withdraw from the noise of confrontation and back into the darkness that one understands as the key to the normal audience, performer relationship.

Using shamelessly plagiarised Gilbert and Sullivan as the backdrop for the Battle Of Trafalgar, was inspired. Some brilliantly funny lines and exceedingly well sung too.

There was no doubt this was a multi-faceted cast with so many skills. It was those skills that made this show the show it was. There was potential for disaster at any time but this quartet offered up a collectively safe pair of hands and for that they should be highly commended.

The characterisations were superb that alone showed that this is a great cast and that’s without all the other stuff too.

Theatre needs to be accessible, this show was. It fulfilled its objectives so well and the audience left feeling thoroughly entertained and hopefully informed. Look out for the Pantaloons. This was their first time in Shrewsbury however one is certain there will be demand to have them back. If they do come back they are worthy of your attention.

This is a four star review.

Owen J. Lewis 

Section:

Owen Lewis Owen Lewis

Owen Lewis was born fifty something years ago in the land of the black puddings. For the geographically challenged that is in Lancashire. Moving to Shropshire From 1970 Owen was brought up in Church Stretton. His first real job was in radio. After starting on BBC Radio Shropshire he became known on Marcher Sound, broadcasting throughout the North West for several years. After a university degree course in Theatre, Owen became an actor and went on to play "Pirate Bill" in The Alton Towers Hotel. He also made several television appearances. Returning to university he took his PGCE enabling him to teach. That saw him on the Essex coast as a drama teacher and latterly as a Creative Educational Liaison Officer making films and creating new teaching methods to employ on children in need of more help in their fundamental learning skills. Published playwright Owen ultimately wants a house boat in Amsterdam to focus on his work as Playwright and Poet.

Read More from Owen Lewis