Theatre Preview: Terry Deary: Plague, Poverty and Prayer

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HORRIFIC executions took place in the Grassmarket, particularly cruel if you were a traitor - a crown of iron would be heated until it was red hot and then put on the traitor’s head.

Best-selling children’s author Terry Deary is recalling Edinburgh’s gruesome past, ahead of his visit to the Capital this week. As the creator of the Horrible Histories book series, it’s an appropriate tale.

Deary’s gloriously gory take on history bursts on to the stage of the King’s this week, where it’s the turn of the Terrible Tudors and the Vile Victorians to gross out audiences - complete with Bogglevision 3D special effects.

In Terrible Tudors, Deary explores the legends and the lies about the torturing Tudors, finds out the fate of Henry’s headless wives, and about his punch-up with the Pope. But will you survive the attentions of the Spanish Armada as it sails right into the audience?

In Vile Victorians, discover exactly what a baby farmer did; experience the filth of the factories and the slums and the sewers, and prepare for the Charge of the Light Brigade.

Both shows are adapted from Deary’s works and the writer, who has more than 247 books to his credit, will be here himself next Saturday to help celebrate 20 Horrible Years of the world’s bestselling children’s history series. At 2.30pm, he will be performing his play Plague, Poverty and Prayer, at Christ Church, on Morningside Road.

Still amazed by the success of the series, he reflects, “I was a writer. I had published probably 50 books, mostly novels, and then I did a non-fiction series called True Tales.

“Then Horrible Histories came along as yet another series to put under my belt, but that was the one that just caught fire and, like a forest fire, burned a bit out of my control.”

More than 60 titles later, Deary is now turning his attention to writing a new series of books about history for adults.

“The secret of the success is that I am not a historian,” he says, adding the attraction of the books is simple.

“It’s the same as what people like to read in newspapers everyday. They want to read about people in traumatic situations. Not that Mrs Jones crossed the road safely and bought a pint of milk.

“They don’t always have unhappy endings, of course. Some people come through the most incredible hardships and dangers and survive.

“That’s real value of history, like reading a newspaper, you measure yourself against other people. You look at their story and go, ‘Wow! Could I have done that?’

Horrible Histories, King’s Theatre, Leven Street, tonight-Saturday, various times, £12.50-£16.50, 0131-529 6000

Terry Deary: Plague, Poverty and Prayer, Christ Church, Morningside Road, Saturday 2.30pm,free (booking is essential), 0131-447 1917