This was not the sort of evening one normally spends at the Fringe. While history lessons aren’t exactly uncommon around here, they rarely involve all that much ludicrous headgear or songs by the Village People. However, this is the case with Soddin’ Flodden, a forty-five minute lesson that mainly manages to be quite entertaining even if it does plumb the depths of heard-it-before humour.
The show is a rambunctious telling of a slice of Scottish and English history, focusing on the disastrous battle of Flodden Field where King James IV of Scotland lost his life. The many historical kings, lords, and other important types who were involved are all portrayed by storyteller John Nichols and are distinguished by a series of hats of varying silliness. As someone whose history is less than stellar, I admit there were points when I struggled to recall which hat denoted whom. The freely distributed programme is quite useful in this regard, I later discovered. John’s tale is accompanied by guitar work from Hilary Bell and violin from Lucy Cowan. The music runs the gamut from contemporary folk to modern(ish) pop, the latter generally popping up when there’s a cheesy gag to be had from it.
Make no mistake, Soddin’ Flodden trades in the very corniest of corny jokes. If you don’t groan at least once you aren’t human, and for some people the groans will probably outweigh the laughs. The script is generally tight, but does lose its way a little in the later stages; once we finally reach the close of the Flodden battle, the show doesn’t end so much as it just stops. John Nichols is a charismatic host who is in no way afraid to look ridiculous, but those without a passion for Scottish history will likely find themselves growing restless in the latter stages. Ultimately, the show achieves no more than what it aspires to be: a decent, watchable hour of history lesson. Even if it does feature a man on a hobby horse.