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Guest Blog: Neal Foster: The Director of HORRIBLE HISTORIES - TERRIBLE TUDORS Talks About Bringing the Grizzly Past to the Stage

Terrible Tudors is currently playing at London's Garrick theatre

Guest Blog: Neal Foster: The Director of HORRIBLE HISTORIES - TERRIBLE TUDORS Talks About Bringing the Grizzly Past to the Stage

2022 marks our tenth anniversary of Horrible Histories in the West End, so we decided to celebrate it with Terrible Tudors, which was the first HH production we produced back in 2005.

It was adapted from the first book written by Terry Deary which kicked off the HH series. No-one could have guessed back in 1993 that Horrible Histories was going to become such a phenomenon, leading to stage, TV and film productions and we've had an enormous amount of fun in the seventeen years we've been producing HH Live on Stage.

It combines two of my greatest passions - history and comedy and it never ceases to be endlessly fascinating. There's something almost scientific about producing a comedy show - every single moment on stage is calibrated to tell the story in the funniest and most interesting way possible and we are still finding new ways to perform a scene we've been doing since 2005.

It could be the timing of a look at the audience, or the repetition of a hand gesture, or a pause before a line. You simply have no idea what each individual audience is going to bring to the performance. I've always been amazed how a group of strangers who have never met, suddenly and spontaneously become a homogenous group which respond almost uniformly when they sit down for the show.

Sometimes you step on stage and the audience explodes with excitement - sometimes they are waiting silently to be entertained. Moreover, the mood of an actor can often be affected by the very few people you can see on the front row, no matter how wildly the hundreds of people are reacting behind them.

Guest Blog: Neal Foster: The Director of HORRIBLE HISTORIES - TERRIBLE TUDORS Talks About Bringing the Grizzly Past to the Stage
Horrible Histories - Terrible Tudors
Photo Credit: Mark Douet

Audiences should know that, unlike sitting in front of a television or relaxing in a cinema, their response has enormous influence on how the show unfolds. Which is what makes theatre so exhilerating, because every performance feels unique. The difference with Horrible Histories and many comedy shows is that the stories we are performing are all true.

So the key to the whole enterprise is finding a way to illuminate the story in a comedic fashion, while still explaining what can be complicated history to children as young as five, while still entertaining their parents.

The good news is that children are far more sophisticated than we sometimes imagine and there's almost nothing that they can't handle, if it's delivered clearly. They are also able to concentrate for far longer than experts have us believe: Terrible Tudors runs just over an hour but some of our shows run longer than two hours and we never lose the children's attention - it simply depends on what you're putting in front of them.

Guest Blog: Neal Foster: The Director of HORRIBLE HISTORIES - TERRIBLE TUDORS Talks About Bringing the Grizzly Past to the Stage
Horrible Histories - Terrible Tudors
Photo Credit: Mark Douet

Our shows are based on the books, so they are a bit more gory than the television series, but they still depend on imagination rather than effects. For example, in Terrible Tudors we witness the execution of Mary, Queen of Scots, which unfortunately didn't go according to plan: the executioner missed her neck and chopped into the back of her head, and when the second blow still didn't chop her head off, he had to saw through her neck with the axe. In our production we use a rubber axe and there's no fake blood, but it still chills the bones as Mary describes what happened to her - and the children love it! We even offer to throw her head into the audience if anyone wants to catch it, and hundreds of hands shoot into the air!

It was Terry Deary's genius to know exactly how to capture the child's interest and imagination in order to get them excited about history and we are very lucky to have the opportunity to keep inspiring children with our 'horrible' shows.

Horrible Histories - Terrible Tudors is at the Garrick Theatre until 3 September

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From This Author - Guest Blog: Neal Foster


Guest Blog: Neal Foster: The Director of HORRIBLE HISTORIES - TERRIBLE TUDORS Talks About Bringing the Grizzly Past to the StageGuest Blog: Neal Foster: The Director of HORRIBLE HISTORIES - TERRIBLE TUDORS Talks About Bringing the Grizzly Past to the Stage
August 10, 2022

2022 marks our tenth anniversary of Horrible Histories in the West End, so we decided to celebrate it with Terrible Tudors, which was the first HH production we produced back in 2005.