‘Like a socially distanced panto’ - what we thought of the Car Park Party

Horrible Histories show at Chelmsford City Racecourse, part of the Car Park Party weekend of events

Horrible Histories show at Chelmsford City Racecourse, part of the Car Park Party weekend of events Picture: Natalie Sadler - Credit: Archant

Drive-in movies have been a ‘thing’ for several years but this summer they are suddenly ‘the thing’ as we all seek out safe forms of entertainment to enjoy while socially distancing.

I have to admit, the prospect of sitting behind a steering wheel and watching a two-hour film has never particularly appealed but I was intrigued by the events being staged by Car Park Party at Chelmsford City Racecourse, in Great Leighs - mainly because we live just a stone’s throw from the sporting venue.

We were booked in for two of the three events this weekend - The Comedy Stores stand-up night on Friday and Horrible Histories: Barmy Britain today - with two performances of each show.

And it was the Horrible Histories performers who got the biggest laughs.

The cast was made up of two energetic, talented actors who played multiple roles as they took us through a whistle-stop tour of British history from the black death, to the beheading of Anne Boleyn and onto the gunpowder plot.

Not the lightest of subjects for a lazy Saturday morning audience but, in the signature style of Horrible Histories, they found humour in each one and educated their young audience while entertaining everyone, even the mums and dads sat in the back seats (yes most kids took the front row of their family bubble for this performance, forcing their parents to cram into the back of the car).

The kids wet themselves at the toilet humour but the best jokes were the ones that went straight over their heads, of which there were plenty. It was just like a very well executed panto.

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What’s more, the well-rehearsed performance, which has toured theatres for years, had been updated to make it contemporaneous and relevant to a car park audience.

The actors threw in several one liners about Donald Trump, compared the black death to the current pandemic and told us all to wind up our windows after a different type of trump.

Their energy and passion was evident even from the 13th row where we had parked up - they each changed costume multiple times, leapt from playing male to female, modern to ancient characters in a heartbeat and ad-libed where they needed to. All this without the usual interaction they would get from a regular theatre audience.

It was professional, amusing, entertaining, educational and, most importantly in these unprecedented times, safe.

And as for watching from the car - it was ideal, the kids could eat their packed lunch, they could move around freely without disturbing others and we could sit inside or out. We are sold on the drive-in experience.

The Car Park Party weekend rounds off with two karaoke events tonight.

What you need to know:

• Big cars are directed one side and smaller the other so you can all get a view.

• Cars are parked in marked out bays which are staggered so everyone can see

• There is a gap of several metres between cars meaning you have plenty of space to get in and out without coming close to your neighbours

• Viewers can use the racecourse toilets which are cleaned regularly

• Take a blanket and if it is hot you can sit next to your car and bask in the sunshine while watching the live performance

• There is a dedicated radio station that you can tune into so you get crystal clear sound no matter where you are parked

• Take food, drink, alcohol (unless you are driving!) and have a picnic next to your car, as you wait for the show to start - or there is a burger van selling drinks and food