King’s Theatre, Edinburgh, Wed 22–Sat 25 Oct
For parents he’s a reassuring reminder that at least their children aren’t that bad. While for kids, his cheeky problem solving is aspirational – something they’d do themselves if only they could get away with it. Francesca Simon’s loveable rogue, Horrid Henry, first wormed his way into our hearts in 1994. Since then, books such as Horrid Henry Tricks the Tooth Fairy, Horrid Henry’s Nits and Horrid Henry Robs the Bank have notched up sales of over 12 million, with audio books, an animated TV series and an official website all adding to the mix.
But now it’s time to meet the living, breathing bad boy in the flesh. Horrid Henry Live and Horrid! blends several of Simon’s stories into one full-length stage show. Adapted by British theatre stalwart John Godber (Bouncers et al) the production stays faithful to the original books while adding a bit of Godber’s trademark theatrical punch.
‘Francesca writes very good dialogue so I didn’t feel I needed to interfere with the language,’ says Godber. ‘It was simply a matter of realising the books on stage. But the Horrid Henry stories are all quite short, so I needed to segue from one to the next without it turning into a compilation album.’ To that end, Godber came up with a framework whereby Henry imagines what it would be like to have a show all about him. ‘The conceit clearly being that he does have a show,’ says Godber, ‘and we’re watching it.’
As if Henry’s dastardly deeds and vivid imagination weren’t enough to keep us hooked, Godber has added in songs, dancing and some energetic physical theatre. ‘In many ways it’s Horrid Henry meets Robbie Williams,’ says Godber. ‘It’s a gig.’