‘There’s always a good fart to make them giggle’: Horrible Histories is back in the West End and so is actor Ben Martin

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The actor chatted to Emma Clarendon about bringing Horrible Histories back to London.

Hi, could you tell me a bit more about what audiences can expect from Barmy Britain Part Four? Audiences can expect lots of silly songs, silly characters, funny facts, farts, dodgy accents, more farts,
ridiculous wigs and even more farts. Don’t think that you can get away with just watching the shows, we expect there to be plenty of audience participation, and if we don’t get it, you’ll get your head chopped off!

You’ve worked quite a bit on the stage adaptations of Horrible Histories – what do you enjoy the most about working on these shows?
I was lucky enough to be in the very first HH Stage Shows, the Terrible Tudors and the Vile Victorians, back in 2005 ( they are already part of ancient history), and have been included on and off ever since. What I most love about doing them is the collaborative nature of each show; the script is there to guide us, but can be changed to make the show even funnier. The sound effects are almost a third character on stage, so scenes can evolve into something completely different. The crazy costume changes turn into a show of their own, and once we are performing, every show takes on a life of its own, depending on the audience.

Have you read any of the books – what did you think of them?
Terry Deary’s wonderfully anarchic books have been going since 1993, so obviously they became the template for our shows. I read the books that are specifically related to the era we are doing, and it’s a good reminder of the “learning through silliness” that we want to achieve. I love Martin Brown’s illustrations too.

How does it feel bringing Horrible Histories back to London?
I was in the first Barmy Britain at the Garrick Theatre eight years ago and it has been in the West End in its various forms ever since, becoming the longest-running children’s show in West End history. It will be an honour and a joy to perform at the Apollo theatre and to be living at home.

Have you got any favourite historical characters that you get to portray?
There are only two actors in Barmy Britain, myself and the wonderful Pip Chamberlain, so we get to play many, many characters. I do enjoy slipping into the rather enormous dress to play Queen Elizabeth I, and to be my foppish best as Samuel Pepys.

What would you say makes children’s theatre special?
The theatre is still so new to so many children, and you get a sense of that wonderment and excitement. It is more of a family show than just for kids, so they can join in with the laughter of their parents. And there’s always a good fart to make them giggle.

Horrible Histories: Barmy Britain Part 4 will play at the Apollo Theatre until 31 August 2019.

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Emma Clarendon
Emma Clarendon studied drama through A-Level before deciding she was much better suited to writing about theatre than appearing onstage. She’s written for a number of online publications ever since, including The News Hub and Art Info. Emma set up her own blog, Love London Love Culture, in April 2015 and tweets at LoveLDNLoveCul.
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Emma Clarendon on FacebookEmma Clarendon on InstagramEmma Clarendon on RssEmma Clarendon on Twitter
Emma Clarendon
Emma Clarendon studied drama through A-Level before deciding she was much better suited to writing about theatre than appearing onstage. She’s written for a number of online publications ever since, including The News Hub and Art Info. Emma set up her own blog, Love London Love Culture, in April 2015 and tweets at LoveLDNLoveCul.

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