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The Historians (Salford)

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
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Chucker (Susanna Hislop) and Mucker (Katherine Markwick) are destined to be friends, sharing a birthday and born in the same Halifax hospital. As teens, participation in a talent show prompts them to develop an act as "The Historians", setting out catalogues of life in Halifax against a musical backing.

With a litany of place names and piles of great anecdotes it is easy to see how The Historians will appeal to people born in Yorkshire. Details are given of comments made by visitors to the area, such as Daniel Defoe, and of how inventions, including road safety cats' eyes, originated there.

But Hislop and Markwick (who devised the show with director Delyth Jones) avoid a dull history lesson and parochialism by emphasising the universal aspects of the story – the importance of friendship, the confusion of childhood and the vital need for strong imagination to offset the boredom of small town life. In one of many great quotes, we're told that, in the imagination, Yorkshire can be sunny.

Hislop and Markwick make a fine team bopping around the stage in awful shell suits and bawling in strong regional accents ('Cor – worravista!' they gasp at the view from Beacon Hill). Their relaxed, natural style creates a warm atmosphere that engages audience affection. Although Chucker and Mucker are fully realised characters Hislop and Markwick have fun creating the more broadly comic types that populate their town.

Director Delyth Jones catches the breathless helter-skelter feel of childhood with a cheeky anarchic production. There is no danger of the show sliding into a monologue or a stand-up routine as the cast dash around the stage utilising boxes to create the scenes they describe.

The effect is charming; when Chucker reports that Halifax is known for the manufacture of Quality Street Hislop throws samples of the confectionary (including the box) into the audience. Delyth Jones shows great technical skill as a realistic disco bursts into life within seconds.

Hot Ice Theatre are an exciting new company who have managed to produce a heart warming and very funny play despite not being from Lancashire.

- Dave Cunningham


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