Great Britons

Great Britons starts with pomp and ceremony music setting the scene with a little row of Union Jack flags hung against a black backdrop. But it’s important to not be fooled by the humble setting as this is the unique style of The Foundry Group, with their irreverent approach to conventional story telling that inevitably makes stories more funny and interesting.

The fun they are having performing is cracklingly infectious

This new show created by acclaimed writer Brian Mitchell, who also performs, and Joseph Nixon of The Shark is Broken: also the writing collaborators on Who Is No. 1? is a romp through a few famous Britons “who have actually saved the Country” as mini history performances that are actually both hilarious and fascinating. Murray Simon performs alongside Brian in an effortlessly easy partnership where the fun they are having performing is cracklingly infectious to the audience. Their trademark of looking as if they don’t really know what’s going on while clearly knowing exactly what is going on is something they excel at, making the audience feel at ease within the apparent chaos. There is also always room for ad libs which make it fresh and interesting each time. They have a wonderful way of bringing classic British humour in to everything while also making it current, plus family safe while cutting and clever. This is a double act which doesn’t follow the old convention of one ‘straight man’ either – all in all, they have succeeded in bringing classic British comedy up to date, which is an amazing feat.

The first hero of ‘derring do’ is The Duke of Wellington: the most famous English Irishman as they sing, with words written out for the audience to join in the chorus. Rather than tell one tale through and then another – which would be boring – they interweave them, including Alfred the Great, references to T E Lawrence, Robert The Bruce, and Horatio Nelson - and a surprise ending. The detailed sketches of parts of their lives are told with facts which they actually make sound interesting, unlike many people's experiences of history lessons, plus the addition of funny asides, or making fun of other characters such as “porcine featured Napoleon”. Virtually every type of joke and humour is added into the mix from clever double meaning words to slapstick wooden sword fighting worthy of primary school playgrounds. One of the many standout moments is Horatio Nelson (Brian Mitchell) meeting Lady Hamilton (Murray Simon) which could easily be mistaken for a Morecambe and Wise sketch, including the Eric Morecambe’s trademark use of his glasses: this really is laugh out loud funny and so very satisfying to watch as it’s done so well. Their multi-rolling is fabulous, mainly using just hats - some home made with newspaper, and their influences can be seen from so many different classics across British comedy: from Monty Python right up to present day. This show is perhaps best described as Morecambe and Wise meets the Horrible Histories TV show with a beautiful blend of both.

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Reviews by Susanne Crosby

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Performances

Location

The Blurb

Four nations, five heroes, two actors – no budget! At last - some proper history in this brand new comedy by acclaimed writers Brian Mitchell (Those Magnificent Men) and Joseph Nixon (The Shark Is Broken), the duo behind Brighton-Fringe smash, 'Who Is No. 1?'. Join us as we recreate the great events in the great lives of some very great Britons, all done on a shoestring. Relive epic battles! Shout "Hurrah!" at feats of derring-do! Marvel as a man burns cakes, another puts a telescope to his blind eye, and a spider tries to spin a web! (Or was that crawl up a cave wall... ?) Valiantly performed by penniless actors Murray Simon (The Ministry of Biscuits) and Mitchell himself, this cut-price pageant will swell your bosom with pride and split your sides with laughter. The Foundry Group, winners: OffWestEnd,com's OffFEST Award for Theatre, Brighton Fringe 2022 / OffFEST Finalists 2024. Running time includes a 15 minute interval.

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