Derby Theatre has really hit the bullseye again with its latest festive offering, Horrible Christmas.
Terry Deary’s Horrible Histories series is already such a success in book and TV forms so the demand for a theatrical offshoot is certainly there. Add a Christmas slant to the proceedings and you’re onto a winner.
Young theatregoers on the night I attended were clearly loving the whole riotous spectacle, and there were plenty of guffaws from the adults in a marvellously mounted and executed co-production by Derby Theatre and Birmingham Stage Company, following on from last Christmas’s notable success with Charlotte’s Web.
In Horrible Christmas, it’s the night before the big day and young Watson is eagerly waiting by the Christmas tree when a figure who appears to be Santa (in fact his nasty brother Sidney Claus) appears in his front room, whereupon he gleefully makes off with all of Watson’s presents.
So Watson (Mark Newnham) sets out to save Christmas for himself and all children whose presents have been pilfered, travelling back through history with his mysterious accomplice Sherlock ‘Shirley’ Holmes (Sarah Pelosi) and meeting some famous figures along the way.
Andrew Vincent and Simon Snashall make a nicely contrasting pair of pantomime villains as Sidney Claus and Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer, while the versatile Christopher Chilton appears as, among others, Charles Dickens, Henry VIII, Charles II, Oliver Cromwell and St Nicholas, stealing each scene and wringing plenty of laughs from the script.
Jo Mousley is just as good, playing his female sidekicks through the ages.
Horrible Christmas, written by Terry Deary and directed by Phil Clark, is packed with gags, songs, audience participation, and there’s even a dash of pathos near the end.
All in all it boasts the key ingredients required to send theatregoers of all ages on their way home with a smile on their face and a spring in their step.
This should be yet another festive hit for Derby Theatre.
Horrible Christmas can be seen there until January 11.