|Published on Saturday, 27 August 2011|
I’ll be honest. I’m a sentimental person, and I love slightly offensive political and cultural humour. So, to me, The Historians is hands-down the best theatre production I’ve seen this Fringe. Yes, it’s naff; it’s filled with some horrendous tracksuits and even more horrendous music (NKOTB, anyone?) But it’s also filled with heart and soul and talent, so much so that I can barely fault it at all.
The play follows Chucker and Mucker, two girls who grew up together in the fabulous, sparkling town of Halifax, West Yorkshire. There were never two chavs that I liked more. The story starts three days after they were born (their mothers meet each other on a bus to the local prison) and follows through until present day. It’s a ridiculous cross between musical, comedy and theatre, and while coming-of-age stories are hardly new, I dare you not to have a smile on your face the entire way through.
Markwick and Hislop have absolutely brilliant comic timing; the physicality and flow of their comedy ranks among the best I’ve ever seen. There was no time for awkward transitions or pauses, even when they switched flawlessly between their own main characters and other minor characters in the play. A fabulous and oh-so-Nineties Yamaha keyboard is used often to hilarious effect, and will no doubt bring back memories of musically-inept tweens attempting to synthesise their way to stardom.
True, the story of two people named Chucker and Mucker might sound completely idiotic and just about as intellectual as Seventeen magazine, but political and cultural jokes are weaved in flawlessly. The jokes about Thatcher and the recession carry through to a new audience, experiencing the woes of yet another discussion about taxing chips. The relevance of it makes the script all the more hilarious and poignant.
If I were going to be picky, there are a couple of plot holes (a mysterious nightclub scene near the end needs to be explained). And at times I wish they’d taken into account the side seating a little more – though this was much less of a problem in this production than in others I’ve seen at the Fringe. All in all though, there’s not too much to complain about, although looking up cultural references from circa 1991 might help your cause.
With rioting yobs running amok in parts, I think Britain is sometimes all too keen to forget its grassroots communities. The play’s big question – “is the place you’re going more important than the place you’re from?” – is never really answered, but it certainly makes you consider it, and perhaps that’s better than shoving a solution on your face. Even if you don’t go along to the play to answer life’s big questions, you will at least be impressed by the talent of Hot Ice Theatre. Or if you absolutely hate it, the free toffee sweets (nicked from Wollies of course!) will compensate.
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FROM OUR ARCHIVES
These are archived reviews of shows from the Edinburgh Fringe 2011. We keep our archives online as a courtesy to those we've featured, and for readers who'd like to research previous years' reviews.