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Horrible Histories talks to Muddy

The show's co-director tells us how he's managed to combine education with eurgh-factor

Family favourite Horrible Histories is en-route to Exeter this month with shows Terrible Tudors and Awful Egyptians bringing us mummy-making, tomb excavations and an Armada sailing into the audience. Muddy Sussex editor Debbie spoke to actor/manager and co-director of the shows Neal Foster about what grisly goings-on we can expect.

What are your other fave parts from these shows?

From Awful Egyptians it’s how they made mummies. Because they thought the brain was useless, just padding for the skull, they’d take it out and feed it to their pet cat or whatever was passing. They believed all thought and emotion was in the heart so that’s the only thing they left in. In Terrible Tudors it’s wonderfully awful Henry VIII. I reckon if you want to find out what Donald Trump is like spend an hour with Henry VIII! We have the wooing and undoing of Anne Boleyn and her not very happy ending. There’s also a good scene with Richard III, what happened to him before the Tudors. Shakespeare pops up as well.

mummy on stage

What visual highlights can we look forward to?

There will be a 3D Spanish Armada sequence in the middle of Terrible Tudors with canons firing into the audience. With Awful Egyptians in the 3D sequence we go into what was in their afterlife, so we journey into the kingdoms they believed they went to when they died. So it’s quite exciting and a bit scary.

Has there ever been anything you considered too gross to go into a show?

There’s a scene in Barmy Britain Part Four, in the West End at the moment, where someone kisses a severed head. I thought ‘we can’t do this’ but then I changed my mind and it’s proving popular. If you can find a funny way of doing it there’s almost nothing you can’t do.

historical characters on stage

How diligent are you in your research? 

We once had a 3D section on the Battle of Hastings and it is one of my favourite scenes. Beforehand I went to see the landscape where the battle took place. We like to keep it absolutely accurate. Though we have a lot of fun and in jokes, we like there to be three or four sources before a fact will be included. We performed Terrible Tudors at Hampton Court a few years ago and the curators read the script and gave us some pointers and we made certain changes. We are always adapting to keep up with historical research. In the last few weeks a workshop for mummies has been discovered in Egypt so we put an extra fact in from that.

How were you at history at school?

Well I did two history A levels. My English History teacher was the most boring man in Britain and I did badly, the other was excellent and I got an A. That’s the thing – if you’ve got a great teacher you’ll enjoy it. If not, we’re here to right any wrongs! In the end it’s about fantastic stories and we leave in the interesting, gory, rude and disgusting.

Horrible Histories will be at the Exeter Northcott Theatre with Terrible Tudors and Awful Egyptians, both Thurs 27 – Sun 30 September  in various time slots. 

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