Scots get a really Horrible History of the English
Latest play in series, written for Edinburgh, is tailored to win applause north of the border
The Sassenachs will meet a bloody end when Horrible Histories, the all-conquering children's show secretly loved by adults, is given a tartan makeover for the Edinburgh Fringe.
Based on Terry Deary's books, the award-winning CBBC series and hit stage show have delighted young audiences by spoofing the goriest and most gloriously silly events from the past. The League of Gentlemen comedy troupe reunited to star in the latest CBBC series, in which Henry VIII appears on a television show hoping to raise money from his antique abbeys and a German submarine captain has the worst ever toilet accident.
The latest stage spin-off, Barmy Britain, a romp from rotten Romans to terrible Tudors through to the First World War, has become the West End's longest-running children's show.
This summer, the production is set to graduate to the Edinburgh Fringe Festival, where it will run daily at the Pleasance theatre. But after Deary's book Bloody Scotland was accused of a "UK-centric, anti-Scottish viewpoint of Scottish history" by the Scottish Separatist Group, the show will reflect national sensibilities.
"It will have a Scottish lilt and the English don't come out of it at all well," said Neal Foster, Barmy Britain's writer and director. "As long as they beat the English, the Scots should be happy."
Foster has written new scenes including his own version of Braveheart. "William Wallace ends up on a special version of the dating show Take Me Out," he said. "Edward I is looking for a date but the only interest is from William Wallace and Robert the Bruce. They both want to take the King out – but not in the way he expected." Fans of Horrible Histories' famously gruesome sketches will revel in a section on Burke and Hare, the 19th-century Irish immigrants who murdered 17 victims in order to sell their corpses for anatomical dissection in Edinburgh.
Foster, who co-writes the show with Deary and will also appear in the Edinburgh production, said the plays have become a learning tool for children. "It's silly, ridiculous and gory but everything that is said is based on a historical truth," he said. "When something's silly it doesn't feel like learning. We always put elements in for adults, too."
Horrible Histories: Modern classics
Terry Deary, a teacher, answered his question "Why don't we start telling children the truth about history?" with the 1993 publication of The Terrible Tudors and The Awesome Egyptians.
The 60 Horrible Histories titles have since sold more than 25 million copies in 30 languages. The CBBC series, first broadcast in 2009, won an adult British Comedy Award, while the Birmingham Stage Company has the licence to present Horrible Histories around the world. Deary, called "the most influential historian in Britain today," hopes to add a theme park in County Durham to the series' board games and audio books.
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