Miss Hap, Rameses and Milo extract the tripes from a mummy – Photo supplied by Theatre Royal
As a parent who has grown-up children I have not ‘enjoyed’ the presence of large groups of school-age children recently so was perhaps a little unprepared to be an audience member for the Birmingham Stage Company Awful Egyptians show at the Theatre Royal in Norwich this week. The sheer volume of a theatre full of junior screaming is quite terrifying, and this show gave them plenty to scream at.
Touring with companion work Terrible Tudors this play is based on author Terry Deary’s commendable approach to sneaking history into children’s brains by accentuating the comedy and horror of genuine historic tales.
There are numerous references to other cultural memes throughout this fast paced show, which starts with a teacher Miss Hap (Lisa Allen) and pupil Milo Izaak Cainer accidentally locked in a museum as it closes for the night. The tone is set straight away as Milo is locked himself in the toilet as the lights go off, cue plenty potty gags!
When he emerges his teacher manages to topple a figurine from its resting place, only to unleash a curse upon them for handling this ancient relic. This introduces the mighty figure of Ramesses (Simon Nock) and we are back in a flash to his court in ancient Egypt. These three actors are the whole cast, each taking many different characters as the caper continues. Simon Nock takes characterisation further by giving each Egyptian character he plays one of a range of regional accents. On occasions you need to listen quite carefully to keep up with the barrage of information he gives us, although the kids near me did not seem to have any problem. It was polling day when I saw the show, so I was a little surprised to see both Jeremy Corbyn and Donald Trump, amongst others, make brief appearances when you think they might have had a few other things to keep them busy.
For the second half we were all given a set of 3D specs to wear. The set features a large back projection screen which is used in a variety of ways but really comes into its own for the 3D effects. When a big angry cobra leaps out from the stage and comes right at you the screaming suddenly makes a lot of sense! This technique, branded ‘Bogglevision’ lifts the drama to a new level.
This lively show was certainly a children’s favourite with this audience. Lots of gory details about mummies and other artefacts keep the kids entertained, and the 3D effects certainly keep them screaming! With ten or more Horrible Histories books to inspire them this company have set up a formula which gives them plenty of scope for more action- and fact-packed shows, so brace yourself for lots more screaming coming your way. Now, where did I put those earplugs….
© Julian Swainson 2019