The kid in me is screaming with excitement: The beloved ‘Horrible Histories’ books by Terry Deary have been brought to life onstage in Horrible Histories – More Best of Barmy Britain. This special edition of the long-running trip through history, produced by the Birmingham Stage Company, is currently playing on the West End to commemorate the stage adaptation with favourite scenes from the past and new surprises. We caught up with Laura Dalgleish, one of the two actors involved in the show, who tells us about her involvement in the production and the fun moments we should expect.
Horrible Histories has a somewhat self-explanatory title, though I’m sure the production has plenty of surprises in store. What is the show about, and what can audiences expect from this production?
The show is basically a rip-roaring ride through history, stopping off at different eras from the Roman invasion right the way through to the first World War. We use a lot of comedy and sketches to make the history fun for people of all ages, not just kids. You can expect lots of laughs, songs, and just a great time!
How did you first become involved with the production? Were you familiar with Terry Deary’s book series prior to being a part of the theatrical adaptation, and how has it been bringing these ‘horrible histories’ to the stage?
I used to read the books when I was younger; I love how clever they are. I originally auditioned for the Birmingham Stage Company almost ten years ago, and I guess they like me, as I’ve worked on many productions for them since then. I am really familiar with the Horrible Histories style due to that. The shows are so much fun to be a part of, and I adore children’s theatre because they are tough critics, so when you hear the laughter and enjoyment it gives you a real buzz.
It’s such a fun environment during rehearsals, as we are allowed to have so much input into the creation of the show, from editing the script, re-writes, direction, and are always just trying to make it as funny as possible, so there’s lots of laughter. Ashley Bowden, the other actor in the show, and myself are good friends, so we just try and make each other laugh all the time. I think we make a good team on stage!
What is your favourite moment in the performance?
I don’t want to spoil it too much for anyone who might come to see it, but there’s a scene where I have to drink water, and it’s basically Ash making me laugh the whole time. He improvises what he says every day, and it does really crack me up. Plus it’s a two-man show, and it’s manic so the first glass of water is actually a welcome drink – sadly it’s not the only one!
The Horrible Histories series is both educational and incredibly entertaining. Why do you think these stories are attracting masses of audiences around the world?
I think it’s exactly that – it’s getting the balance of parents knowing their children are seeing something educational, but also something that can have you laughing out loud. There’s something for everyone, it makes the history relevant, and therefore more memorable. It’s great family entertainment, and we always have feedback from parents who say they laughed just as much as their kids, which is great.
Will you share some backstage secrets about the production with us?Oooooooh, I don’t think I should! To be honest, we are always on stage and we never really leave, but to get ready for the show we often put on music and have a good dance about to get the energy going. A firm favourite is ‘Hooked on a Feeling’ by Blue Swede. Always gets the team dancing. It’s just very humbling to be with such a lovely team of people. We actually like hanging out together. And chocolate. We like chocolate . . . if you want to leave any at stage door, we would be more than grateful!!
What do you hope the audience will walk away with after seeing the play?
We just hope that they have been properly entertained and had a good time with us. That is what we are about, going out there and having fun – and that stretches out to the audience, they are such a big part of the show, and our enjoyment. Big huge smiles after the show is what we like!
Horrible Histories – More Best of Barmy Britain is currently playing at the Garrick Theatre through 2 September.