Children have certainly got a lot to shout about – literally – at the Everyman in Cheltenham at the moment. In the past few weeks they’ve already had The Gruffalo’s Child and The Butterfly Lion and soon there will be Room on the Broom closely followed by the pantomime. Currently they are all getting very excited at Horrible Science – everything they taught you at school with the nasty bits left in.
Horrible Science is rather like a pantomime itself, but without the dame or fishnet tights. In fact, it is directed by Phil Clark who directs the Everyman panto every year and is currently putting the finishing touches to Aladdin which starts rehearsals in a few weeks. Like pantomime, Horrible Science is very brightly coloured with lots of smoke and flashing lights. The best effects were achieved with a huge screen onto which anything can be projected making everything possible. All very different from the smoke and mirrors and trap doors that used to be the only way of achieving special effects on stage. But what’s the show all about?
Well, basically it explains, in very simplistic and graphic terms, how sciencey things work in a way that will appeal to children’s love of things they shouldn’t. For example, the “professors” explain that electricity can be made from farts. They enthusiastically demonstrated what a fart was, for those of us who were in any doubt, but failed to demonstrate exactly how the power was generated or where the plug went. I think you are by now beginning to pick up the flavour (unfortunate choice of word perhaps) of the evening. And so it went on. There were lots of pooey, stinky bits with a distinct scatological bias. But children love that sort of thing. I remember as a kid trying to make the perfect stink bomb – an ambition I harboured well into later life until I discovered that other sorts of experiments could be much more fun – but that’s another story. I remember that one of my methods for creating the ideal pongy concoction was trying to dissolve snails in various obnoxious liquids. Now that’s something you can’t do on PlayStation and is an activity for which there is no app.
I can’t say Horrible Science will be fun for all the family but judging by last night, the kids will love it – and they may well learn something too. – Michael Hasted