A Barmy look at history
Sit down for a hilarious lesson in history
History is full of barmy people, and they make for a great story and laugh. Terry Deary’s bestselling illustrated book series Horrible Histories sums that up as the author takes audience back in time to real, crazy characters from the Awesome Egyptians to the Ruthless Romans. The Birmingham Stage Company adapted Horrible Histories for theatre. The series of shows has been running at London’s West End for 11 years now, and has been well received by both young and old. This year, The Best of Barmy Britain production celebrates its fifth anniversary, making it the longest running children’s show in West End. And it’s coming to Madinat Theatre this Saturday. Barmy Britain retells the story of the country in a hilarious and educational way as told by historical figures like Boudica, queen of the British Celtic Iceni tribe; Guy Fawkes, who took part in the failed Gunpowder Plot; Queen Victoria, the grandmother of Europe and more. The creator and one of the main stars, Neal Foster (left, dressed as Queen Elizabeth I), says history is anything but boring. All it needs is the right storyteller. “Horrible Histories concentrates on the gory, disgusting, rude, naughty, silly and crazy aspects of history, so it’s the perfect way to get people interested in it,” he says. “Terry’s books are perfect for stage shows because he started out as an actor so he writes in a very theatrical way that lends itself perfectly to the stage.” In the show, Neal plays “mean” King
John, “horrible” King Henry VIII, “excited” Guy Fawkes and the notorious serial killer William Burke.
“I think I love playing Burke best,” Neal says. “He must have been a very charming man because over twelve months he managed to persuade sixteen people to stay in his hotel and murdered them all. Then he sold their bodies for money. It’s a shame TripAdvisor wasn’t around in those days.”
Neal says the show is a fun way to introduce history to children and to also give adults a new perspective on things: “We concentrate on finding stories that people think they know, but actually the truth is more interesting and exciting.
“A lot of our scenes are created using wonderful sound effects that really make you believe you’re seeing and hearing history as it unfolds. We also have fabulous costumes and props, which the audience love.”
Designer Jackie Trousdale is in charge of the clothes. Since the whole show is focused on accuracy, Neal says Jackie makes sure they are all authentic to the period.
He adds: “She has a wonderful army of makers who create extraordinary costumes. The secret is that we have to be able to change in under 30 seconds, so everything is made so it can come off and on in double quick time. It’s part of the magic of the show.”
Catch The Best of Barmy Britain from October 8-10 at the Madinat Theatre in Souk Madinat Jumeirah. Ticket prices start at Dhs135, and are available at the Madinat Box Office and Virgin Megastore Tickets. madinatjumeirah.etixduba i.com