Wed, 08 Jul 2020
Arts Editor TRISH LEE talks to Horrible Histories’ Neal Foster who brings Barmy Britain to the Car Park Party at Newbury Racecourse later this month.
CAR PARK THEATRE with Horrible Histories Live On Stage comes to the Racecourse on Saturday, July 25, 2.30pm. Based on the best-selling books written by Terry Deary and published by Scholastic, first launched in 2005 with the world premieres of Terrible Tudors & Vile Victorians. Birmingham Stage Company secured the theatre rights in 2008 and have since produced 18 different Horrible shows, performing to more than three million people in the UK, including the longest running children’s show in West End history, with its record-breaking series Barmy Britain. Horrible Histories live on stage has also become a worldwide phenomenon.
THE Horrible Histories books have been a phenomenal success – what’s their secret?
Terry Deary created Horrible Histories and produced the magic formula of mixing disgusting, gory, rude, silly, gruesome and hilarious facts together into stories from the historical past. It’s proved a winner for children and adults alike.
You trained at Bristol Old Vic Theatre School, then created The Birmingham Stage Company one of the world’s leading producers of children’s theatre – why did you want to specialise in children’s theatre?
The best children’s stories are highly imaginative, including extraordinary and fantastical characters, so they are great to bring to the stage. I’ve always considered producing theatre for children a
wonderful challenge because children don’t understand that if they are bored they should just go to sleep – instead they start talking and going to the toilet. So keeping their attention for two hours in a theatre is one of the most rewarding things I’ve done – and children never stop surprising me with their ability to absorb extremely sophisticated subjects. We’ll never cease to underestimate them.
Why Horrible Histories?
Terry Deary started off as an actor and his books are very theatrical, so they lend themselves beautifully to stage adaptation.
The books are so well-known and loved, how did you go about adapting them for the stage?
I’ve always loved history and did two history A-levels at school, so Horrible Histories is the perfect combination for me of fact and fun. I draw a lot of inspiration from Monty Python and one day found myself sitting next to Michael Palin on the London Underground. It gave me the golden opportunity to thank him for inspiring so much of my writing. He asked for a royalty!
Have you worked closely with Terry Deary?
Terry and I have worked closely on the shows for the 15 years we’ve been producing HH on stage. He’s very unpredictable and never ceases to surprise me with his ideas, which are always challenging and illuminating.
The shows have been a smash all over the world – where have they reached?
We’ve had the privilege to tour Dubai, Abu Dhabi, Qatar, Hong Kong, Singapore, New Zealand and Australia, where we performed in the Sydney Opera House.
Which histories will be visited in Newbury?
It’s a hilarious show which includes King Henry VIII and Anne Boleyn, Guy Fawkes, Dick Turpin and Queen Victoria. There’s even a special appearance from Richard III, who knows a lot about car parks...
And you’re acting too – who do you play? Do you have some fun with it?
I really enjoy playing King John because he’s portrayed as a puppet with my head sticking out and I’ve always loved being that awful villain William Burke, who along with his partner William Hare, murdered 16 people so they could sell the bodies to a surgeon in Edinburgh. He’s truly horrible!
The show is interactive, how does that work?
We’ll be inviting the audience to flash their lights and put on their emergency indicators during
different parts of the show and shouting as loud as they can when they join in with the songs. It’s
going to be a hugely exciting event.
Finally, what’s your favourite history period?
I’d loved to have been around in Georgian times because the men wore fantastic wigs, which would definitely have been an advantage for me.
The Car Park Party – a drive-in event over two days brings together world-renowned comedy, karaoke and theatre. Tickets are being snapped up fast. This live touring event – and first socially-distanced and safe entertainment experience, streamed straight into your cars using the wonders of technology – will present multiple shows across Friday, July 24, to Saturday, July 25, so it’s not just an evening, but a whole weekend to look forward to. The entertainment kicks off on Friday evening with a spectacular sing-a-long concert by the Massaoke Band, bringing two performances with A Night At The Musicals and Back To The Eighties. Families are in for a live theatre treat during the daytime on Saturday with Horrible Histories: Barmy Britain and in the evening there’s top comedic talent, supplied by the world-famous Comedy Store to round off festivities – all to be enjoyed from the comfort and safety of your own car.
For more information visit newburyracecourse.co.uk