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Horrible Science – Palace Theatre, Manchester

Writer: Nick Arnold

Adaptor: Mark Williams

Director: Phil Clark

Reviewer: Cathy Crabb


A giant poo would have to hover above an audience’s head to engage my children in theatre, so what luck ,as that was one of the highlights of last night’s Horrible Science.

Anybody familiar with the series of Horrible Science books by Nick Arnold will know that focusing on the most disgusting areas of science is what makes the books so engaging and interesting to children.

The stage show follows Billy Miller (Gareth Warren) who has come to the opening tour of the Horrible Science World theme park and somehow because he is inquisitive, he winds up at the hands of TIM -The Intelligent Machine (Neal Foster)- which controls the theme park alongside the singing zany professors – Wanda Wye (Sarah Nightingale) Belinda Buzzoff (Laura Dalgleish) and N. Large (Benedict Martin) It’s a bit like Disney world but for science, a computer that is the heart of the theme park has taken over, and is going to make all the miniature things in the theme park become huge and basically cause mayhem if Billy doesn’t answer all his questions correctly.

The areas of science that are covered are gravity, electricity, bacteria and the body.

The set was mainly a large screen with 3D effects provided by Amazing Interectives which were really impressive, particularly in the second half when we adorned our Bogglevision 3D glasses. The costumes where very interesting as Jackie Trousdale has managed to capture the artwork from the books well- a talking bacteria and a boy made of odd sized body parts were two particularly good examples of this.

Children are encouraged to shout out and feel involved and also to feel more intelligent than the bumbling scientists. My children, who have thrown sweets in frustration at bad pantos in the past, found the show very enjoyable and were involved enough to participate in the shouting and answering questions.

However, not enough attention has been spent on the adaptation and the science was so simplified that in the first half it was at times as stuffy as science used to be, before these books came along! There wasn’t much in it that you wouldn’t have already known, so the premise of answering questions before mayhem is unleashed on the world wasn’t really that much of a challenge.

Science wise, it’s not going enlighten a young audience, but for entertainment value it’s a good show.

Photo: Ian Tilton – Runs until Saturday 23rd October

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