Interview With… Ben Martin

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

Ben Martin and Pip Chamberlin in Barmy Britain – Horrible Histories by Birmingham Stage Company. Photo by Mark Douet.

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.

Emma Clarendon

Horrible Histories: Barmy Britain Part 4 will play at the Apollo Theatre from the 1st to the 31st August. To book tickets click here or visit: Love, Last, Encore tickets, From the Box Office or Theatre Tickets

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