- Durham OnAir
Horrible Histories theatre show heads to County Durham
Admiral Nelson, the Duke of Wellington and Queen Victoria are just some of the well-
known characters heading to County Durham as part of the Horrible Histories UK tour.
Gorgeous Georgians and Vile Victorians arrives at Wharton Park in Durham City for four,
outdoor performances on Friday 23 July at 4.30pm and 7pm and Saturday 24 July at 11am
The hilarious hit show will take audiences on a gag-filled gallop through two centuries of
British history in the picturesque setting of the Durham County Council park.
Written by the world’s best-selling non-fiction children’s author, Terry Deary and one of the
country’s leading producers of theatre for children, Neal Foster, the show concentrates on
the gory, silly, naughty, strange and disgusting aspects of the 18 th and 19 th centuries that
teachers do not always share at school.
Describing the two man show as “Monty Python meets history”, Neal said: “The show is
great fun as well as informative, full of funny jokes and silly songs and a perfect afternoon
of family theatre.
“We always love coming to the North East with Horrible Histories as it’s the home of the
creator Terry Deary. To be playing outdoors is also an extra thrill, so we cannot wait to
present Gorgeous Georgians and Vile Victorians in Durham this July. It’s going to be
Cllr Elizabeth Scott, Durham County Council’s Cabinet member for economy and
partnerships, which includes culture, said: “It’s wonderful to see live performances taking
place in the county again and this show is the perfect treat for families after such a difficult
“Not only will it keep youngsters entertained and give them some funny stories to share
with their friends, but it will teach them about important periods of British history in a truly
The performances will be staged in the park’s amphitheatre, with seating on the
surrounding grass banks. Ticket holders are advised to bring a blanket to sit on and
waterproofs in case of showers, and to arrive and park early. Limited paid for parking will
be available at Wharton Park and there will be ample free parking at County Hall, which is
a ten-minute walk away. The park café will be open for refreshments.
The amphitheatre does not have a roof, but performances will only be cancelled if there is
a safety concern for audiences, staff or the theatre company.
Tickets are priced at £15.50, £14 for concession or £12.50 for groups of ten and more and
can be booked online at www.galadurham.co.uk/galapost/horrible-histories/
Gala Durham offers a ‘book with confidence guarantee,’ which offers ticketholders, who
are no longer able to attend a show for any reason, a full refund or exchange if they
contact the venue two hours before the performance. This is free of charge and no
explanation is required.
Q&A With Author Terry Deary by Diane Parkes
Q: When you wrote your first Horrible Histories did you ever imagine the idea would go on to
be so successful?
A: Yes, I think most authors believe their work will be a huge success even though most books disappear from print after a couple of months. It’s that hope that keeps us going. When I wrote my very first fiction book 44 years ago my publisher said, ‘writing is like a sausage machine and you have to keep stuffing in at one end so something comes out the other end – it is like a process’. I kept writing book after book – fifty fiction titles before HH came along - but I never imagined I would have a series which would become first of all iconic and secondly that would still be selling more than 28 years later. Roald Dahl has managed that, but I can’t think of anyone else who is still selling so well. What usually happens is that people have sensational ideas and they sell really well for a while but
they do tend to come and go. It is a shame you can’t predict which are the ones that will last!
Q: What do you believe is behind the popularity of Horrible Histories?
A: Nobody had done anything like them before and they filled a desperate need. There were fact books for children but they tended to be written by experts on the subject. They knew their history but they didn’t have a clue how to write about it for children. So with Horrible Histories, instead of an expert who couldn’t write, they approached a children’s author who knew nothing about history. I get all my facts from research. I do my research and say ‘you will never guess what I discovered’ and ‘phwoar, this is great’. It is actually a simple answer. I say I am not an expert in history and this is why they work. Down the years people have tried to copy Horrible Histories by doing funny fact books but
they never get it right because they use experts not writers.
Q: Have you ever found any facts which were too horrible to include?
A: Well the publishers have said so. For example when the Vikings invaded they became settlers and had families here. But these settlers were as vicious as the Vikings and when they invaded a Viking village they would find a Viking child, swing it by its legs and bash its brains out. But when I told the publishers they said ‘we can’t have that’ which is strange as I can’t see it is any worse than some of the other parts which have been included. On the other hand there are facts which some people feel you can’t talk about, say in World War Two. For example when we came to the television series, we were sitting round the table and we talked all about the bombings and the Blackout and got that sorted. Then we got to the Holocaust and there were six or seven pages and they read them in silence and then said ‘of course we can’t do that’. I am actually quite proud of the fact that television can’t do the Holocaust but I can. When I went to school it was all about the Romans. It was the Romans who brought civilisation, the Romans who gave us water supplies and aqueducts, the Romans who brought us straight roads – that is what they told us all the time. But the Romans were the most evil people there were. They are the only people who killed people for sport. Thousands of them would go to an arena and watch people killed for sport and they are held up as models of civilisation. And, because teachers are telling them that, children grow up thinking the Romans were really civilised. Horrible Histories tell the truths
that, in the past, teachers have cut out from history.
Q: Why do Horrible Histories work so well on stage?
A: We work really well as a team. BSC actor/director Neal Foster is very knowledgeable and
experienced in children’s theatre. BSC has been going for 28 years now. I have been a professional actor for nearly 50 years. So, between us, we know what we are doing. We are not trying to write literary stuff. It isn’t the books on stage, we are not determined to be true to the spirit of the books, we are writing for theatre. So it is fresh and original.
Q: So what next for Terry Deary?
A: The Horrible Histories books have been published for 28 years now. Many people who read the books when they were young are in their twenties of thirties now but still remember the enjoyment they got from the books. For those readers I created a new series called ‘Peasants revolting ...’ They are a sort of Horrible Histories for adults. ‘Peasants Revolting Crimes’ was published by Pen & Sword in 2019 and the second book, ‘Peasants Revolting’ Lives’, appeared in June 2020. If you enjoyed Horrible Histories when you were younger you may enjoy these adult books. I am now working on more theatre projects, a TV series. In my hobby of running I have done the Great North Run half-marathon 22 times in its 40 year history. I have written a movie script that is being released for the 40th running of the event. There are also more new Horrible Histories titles rolling out.
Q: After all this research are you now an accidental history expert?
A: Definitely not. I know very little about history because I can’t keep it all in my brain. I have only got about three brain cells. I often forget what I have written because I can’t hold all those facts. I pick up a Horrible Histories book, maybe to revise it, and I read something and think ‘I never knew that!’ But I can be an anorak with facts. I was watching Horrible Histories on television and up came the Vile Victorians and along came Burke and Hare, the body snatchers. And I was jumping up and down and shouting at the television ‘no, they were 1827 – 12 years before Victoria came to the throne. They weren’t Vile Victorians!’ Now that is anorak.
Horrible Histories: Gorgeous Georgians & Vile Victorians is on tour in 2021. Four
outdoor performances will take place at Wharton Park in Durham City on Friday 23 July
at 4.30pm and 7pm and Saturday 24 July at 11am and 2pm.