Birmingham Stage Company

Horrible Histories Tudors and Victorians

Nominated for Manchester Evening News Award for Best Special Entertainment

Mortgage the school if you have to. Ransom the governors, even. No child, or adult, should be denied the chance to see this: live theatre and history at its rip-roaring best.
Times Educational Supplement

I am a primary drama teacher and I haven't enjoyed a piece of theatre in education or even a theatre show aimed at children as much as I enjoyed these informative and entertaining shows! THEY ARE THE BEST SHOWS FOR CHILDREN I'VE EVER SEEN!
Wendy Taylor, Tilehouse Combined School, Bucks

The latest sensation on the theatrical block. The audience shrieked as cannonballs from sinking Spanish ships whizzed over the stalls and the children were hooked

The Times

An amazing show with real stories that made you happy that we do not live in Victorian times!
South Wales Echo

Inventive sets and spectacular 3D effects brought history to life in a way that text books could never achieve
The Birmingham Post

I learned more about the Tudors in two hours than I ever did at school. HORRIBLE HISTORIES is bloody, gory and fun all the way!
Hull Daily Mail

A history lesson all the children seeing it will never forget. Great storytelling with unexpected brilliant touches. A spectacular show
South Wales Argus

A broad, funny and surprisingly hard-hitting entertainment. The sheer novelty of BOGGLEVISION adds immeasurably to youthful excitement and makes this show something very special indeed!
The Stage

This production is a history lesson so totally absorbing that my children talked about it for days afterwards!

Both shows are incredibly lively fun and genuinely educational. I loved it, the wildly enthusiastic school-age audience loved it, and you'd surely love it too!
Manchester Evening News

This fast and furious show melts away the boundary between audience and stage. We weren't just learning about the Victorians, we were living it! My son said it was the best thing he's ever seen!
The Stratford Observer

Wholly accessible, educating, entertaining and enjoyable, HORRIBLE HISTORIES live on stage is a tour de force. Five stars out of five!

An ideal springboard for making history fun and interactive; take the class you won't be disappointed!
Teachers Preview Club

History was never my best subject, but it might have been a different story if I had been taught like this! The production was met with an ecstatic response from the schoolchildren
Southampton Echo

The auditorium seems fit to combust spontaneously in an explosion of joy and excitement
The Times

Laptop illusions add a startling extra dimension to live theatre

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EVER since prehistoric man donned the skins and horns of his prey to re-enact the hunt around the campfire, the theatre has been looking for bigger and better ways to suspend the disbelief of its audience.

Proscenium arches, apron stages, theatre in the round and back projections have all added to the magic. Now, for the generation brought up on computer graphics and cinematic special effects, comes Bogglevision - live 3D illusions that allow virtual objects to float in space and interact live with anything that happens in the auditorium.

The live 3D is being tried out for the first time this week by the Birmingham Stage Company, whose patrons are Sir Derek Jacobi and Paul Scofield.

Historical figures and events are to be brought to life in stagings for children based on the Horrible History books by Terry Deary. Audiences will see portraits of Henry VIII and Elizabeth I hover above their heads and find themselves dodging cannonballs and pieces of wood when a ship of the Spanish Armada is struck.

The objects come right at the audience, fooling the brain into believing they are real. At the trial in Darlington last week children were excitedly reaching out to grab them.

Until now 3D technology used in the theatre has been pre-recorded so that the excitement of live performance was lost. Neal Foster, 39, actor- manager of The Birmingham Stage Company, said that 3D shows by Universal Studios and Disney were thrilling, but that every show was identical. "You feel slightly manipulated from that point of view," he said. "It's the same show for everyone."

Bogglevision, which has been registered for a patent, allows the technology to adapt to whatever happens on the night. "It dissolves the boundaries between the stage and the audience," says Foster. "As a theatre person, the live element is crucial to me. Live theatre should be live."

In Horrible Histories, as characters on stage search for a missing book, a member of the audience is asked their name and sees it appear instantly in a 3D book that suddenly floats, dancing in space, in front of them. For a child, in particular, that is a magical moment.

Foster was initially sceptical about the idea but was convinced by a demonstration by Amazing Interactives, the company that has developed it.

When cannons started firing in rehearsals for the production, even though he knew they were not real, he found himself ducking. "It's impossible not to duck when a giant cannonball heads towards your head," he said. "I couldn't help but flinch."

Tim Dear of Amazing Interactives, which has until now specialised in special effects for visitor attractions said. "Stereo vision is used by Disney, but it's never live. All the software we've developed for this production will run live."

The technology, run through a laptop computer, allows up to 60 set changes. Members of the audience wear special polarised glasses, which resemble ordinary spectacles rather than the red and green cardboard ones that proved such a failure in 3D cinema.

The technology will be made available to other companies, although particular care will be taken to ensure it does not become something ordinary by being used too widely.

Foster believes that the new technology could transform theatre productions worldwide. The reason too many people stay away, he believes, is that 80 per cent of the productions offered at the moment are disappointing.

"If I had my way," he said, "I would make it a criminal offence to bore an audience."

Horrible Histories, which are staging Terrible Tudors and Vile Victorians based on some of the most popular non-fiction books in children's libraries, will receive a national tour, visiting the New Theatre in Cardiff and The Lowry in Salford among seven venues.

By Dalya Alberge - The Times