Horrible Histories: Hilarious HappeningsInterview with writer/actor Neal Foster

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We all want to meet people from history. The trouble is everyone is dead! In preparation for Horrible Histories, an educational and hilarious live show designed for children and adults of all ages and guaranteed to make history fun, Stay at Home Mum were fortunate enough to snap an interview with actor and writer Neal Foster. Horrible Histories, which started as a forty-minute production in London’s Regent Park, has now become one of the longest running children’s show in West End History. And, for the first time, Horrible Histories is set to take the stage across Australia including:

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WA: 7-11 January STCWA – Heath Ledger Theatre

Bookings: Ticketek 1300 795 012 or ticketek.com.au

SA: 15-17 January, Adelaide Festival Centre – The Dunstan Playhouse

Bookings: BASS 131 246 or bass.net.au

VIC: 21-25 January Arts Centre Melbourne – Playhouse Theatre

Bookings: 1300 182 183 or artscentremelbourne.com.au

ACT: 27-28 January Canberra Theatre Centre

Bookings: 02 6275 2700 or canberratheatrecentre.com.au

QLD: 30 January – 1 February Concert Hall, QPAT

Bookings: 136 246 or qpac.com.au

Horrible Histories, The Garrick Theatre, London, UK.

So what’s it like behind the scenes of Horrible Histories? Check out what we got Neal Foster to tell us! 

1.  How do you ‘get into character’ before a stage show.

The difference between a Horrible Histories show and most other plays is that we play multiple roles throughout the show, so getting into a character would only get you through the first scene! So the thing I say to myself just before I go on stage is “let’s party!” as a Horrible Histories show is primarily about having fun and that’s why they prove so popular. I like to be as relaxed as possible before I go on stage so that I’m open to anything that might happen during the show.

2. What is your favourite historical period?
I think I would be most comfortable in the Georgian period because they seem to be having the most fun and being extremely naughty. The Georgian period was the start of the modern age so it was a hugely exciting time and I have also found that 18th century clothes suit me very well – much better than modern clothes! – and the huge advantage of living in Georgian times is that the men wore wigs, which would be perfect for me!

3. Have you ever ‘laughed out-loud’ during a performance and how did you deal with it
When I find something genuinely funny on stage, I tend not to laugh – I tend to stop speaking in order to stop myself from laughing! Two weeks ago we were performing in Bahrain when I tried to cover up that the music for a song was late by singing my own introduction. The noise that came out of my mouth was so funny that neither myself or my co-star could actually sing the song and the audience were treated to a strangely mimed version of a song that usually tells the story of Queen Boudicca. Thankfully it doesn’t happen very often!

4. How is the stage play different from the TV and books?
Barmy Britain is exactly what you’d expect from the TV series and the books. It’s a series of sketches which tell the story of Britain in a hilarious, fact filled two hours of fun. It also has amazing 3D effects which appear in the second half and add a spectacular dimension to the stories we are telling. It’s hugely theatrical, very funny and you learn an awful lot about our remarkably barmy country.

5. Who is your favourite character to play?
I love playing Henry VIII because he in outrageous character both on stage and in real life. He was a monstrous man in every way – a huge personality that changed the course of English history perhaps more profoundly than anyone else, while ordering the execution of 72,000 people along the way! In our show he meets Ann Boleyn and over fifteen minutes we find out what happened to these two extraordinary people – which includes a great rap about their marriage!

6. Who is the funniest cast member in real life?
I think all of the actors who have been involved in BARMY BRITAIN agree that we haven’t laughed as much in rehearsals in our entire careers. Putting together the show has been one of the great joys of our lives and we each find our colleagues very funny, which is why we enjoy performing it so much. No performance is the same as the last and we are constantly trying new things to develop the show every day. It’s why it has stayed so fresh since we first started performing BB nearly three years ago.

7. Have you been to Australia before?
I’ve performed HORRIBLE HISTORIES twice at The Sydney Opera House, most recently in their Concert Hall last winter which was one of the great theatrical treats of my life. The roar of applause we received from the audience at the end of each performance will stay with me forever. We also toured to Melbourne and in both cities I spent every spare hour I had in the Botanical Gardens which never stopped surprising and enchanting me.

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8. How long do you need to spend in hair and makeup before a performance?
I only have one proper eyebrow so the extent of my make-up is applying a new eyebrow to my face each performance. Comedy depends a lot on eyebrows! As for my hair, I haven’t got enough to worry about it!


Massive thanks to Neal and the team at Horrible Histories for letting us delve deep into this fascinating world. Be sure to check out the tour dates (above) and get your ticket for the New Year. 

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