Lifting lid on all that's Egyptian

Lifting lid on all that's Egyptian


Junior reporter Sophie Cheung joins the actors playing the Awful Egyptians (from left) Michael Moulton, Alison Fitzjohn and Gary Wilson.
Junior reporter Sophie Cheung joins the actors playing the Awful Egyptians (from left) Michael Moulton, Alison Fitzjohn and Gary Wilson.
Photo: Chris Lau/SCMP
How did Egyptians preserve mummies? How many people were sacrificed when the Egyptian pyramids were built? These are tough questions to answer without reducing your five-year-old siblings to tears. Junior reporter Sophie Cheung spoke to actors from Horrible Histories - The Awful Egyptians. They taught her the best way is to have a laugh about it. Let's check out how ...

The Horrible Histories is a series of children's books featuring a lot of history's dark secrets and mythology. Among other topics, it has covered the British Empire, the Romans and the Vikings, and is known for mixing brutal facts with humour.

Transformed for the stage, this internationally renowned show came to Hong Kong, with the Birmingham Stage Company's Horrible Histories - The Awful Egyptians.

Equipped with realistic props and backdrops, the cast of three - Alison Fitzjohn, Gary Wilson and Michael Moulton - take you through a mind-blowing journey back to ancient Egypt.

The three actors bring an extra dimension to the show by directing questions to the audience.

Their performance includes snippets from the era when the Egyptian pyramids were built and the terrible pharoahs reigned. The process of building a pyramid and mummification may be daunting topics for children, but the trio makes it fun to watch and learn.

"You've got one element of fun and comedy," Fitzjon says. "And then you have the other element that everything we say is fact."

He says the children may not realise they learn a lot from the show, but they actually walk out with "truckloads of knowledge".

Staging a children's show is not easy. Sometimes, Fitzjohn says, it can be trickier than putting together a show for adults because younger audiences are pretty hard to please.

"Children don't lie. If they don't like something, they let you know," Wilson says. "But when they do like something, it's great and they go mad for it."

The three see themselves as pioneers. Fitzjohn has always worked in rural and community theatre, and loves entertaining youngsters. Wilson, also a veteran of children's theatre, enjoys providing what is often a child's first theatre experience. "If what we do interests them, that could last a lifetime," he says.

Probably because children are more sensitive to what they see and hear, the troupe strives to get every single thing right. During rehearsals, the troupe focuses on all the small things. For example, in one case, the way the actors pick up prop-rocks looks too effortless - so they decide to make it look harder to lift the rocks.

The cast has to be versatile: they act, sing and dance. Also, they change costumes every few minutes and play multiple characters. "You grab this and become this character, then you grab that and become another character," Fitzjohn says.

All the running around helps inject the performances with high energy - and this is what makes the Horrible Histories the great show it is.



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