History will come horribly alive at Southampton’s Mayflower when the Birmingham Stage Company moves in with its celebrated Horrible Histories (April 16-20).
After delivering eras over the years from the Romans to the Tudors and from the Egyptians to the Victorians, the company is now offering an all-inclusive amalgamation show, bringing lots of different histories sparklingly alive.
Alison Fitzjohn is delighted to be with the company once again.
“I have been working with the company for about nine years. I was with them for the first lots of Horrible Histories many years ago, the Tudors and the Victorians. It has been a very happy part of my life ever since.”
It’s certainly proved a great way to travel.
“We have been to Australia, and we have been to Hong Kong and Singapore and the Middle East. Children all over the world love it. They have a lot of international schools abroad.”
But also, clearly, there’s just something about it that appeals to children anywhere.
“There is an audience all over the world, and it is such a great way to learn history. You have the two elements going on. You have the entertainment and the fun and all that, but you have also got the education and the learning side to it.
“I thought it was going to be a winner right from the start because you have all the elements that children love. You have the gory and the gruesome and the silly and the funny – and you have the 3D goggles as well.
“I am a massive fan of people seeing people, of actually being in the theatre seeing a show, and the show is a great way of transferring the information across to the children. So I do think it was always going to be a hit. The children are learning things – but they are enjoying it because they are laughing and screaming at the same time!”
As for the actors, certainly a broader-than-usual style of acting is called for: “You have these big broad characters that are larger than life, but the director Neil Foster always says you have to remember these were real people.
“I am playing Queen Victoria at one point, and there is a big rap scene. But Neil says you have still got to make sure the characters are still true to the original characters.”
Eh? A rapping Queen Victoria?
“You have still got to get across a sense of who they were. I think if it was just funny all the time and there was nothing believable about it all, it would all just get boring.”
And it’s with that end in mind that the show asks: Can you beat battling Boudicca? What if a Viking moved in next door? Would you lose your heart or head to horrible Henry VIII? Can evil Elizabeth entertain England?
“Will Parliament survive gunpowder Guy? Should King Charles keep his head? Dare you stand and deliver to dastardly Dick Turpin?
It’s the history of Britain with the nasty bits left in, they promise.
Barmy Britain is adapted by Terry Deary and Neal Foster from Deary’s best-selling Horrible Histories books.
Terry Deary is the world’s best-selling non-fiction author for children and one of the most popular children’s authors in the country. He has written 200 books which have been translated into 40 different languages.
Tickets on 02380 711811 or online at mayflower.org.uk