When I was at school, we had a history teacher who – when her class’ attention wandered from the finer points of 17th century French foreign policy – would come out with the warning that: “My eye is upon you”. Taking my seat for the Horrible Histories production of The Awful Egyptians, the side-on view of a mummy’s face mask with its great moving eye instantly put me back in the class-room.
Of course, this is history as fun, even if we do learn a great many facts in the process. The framing device of John-Paul Cherrington’s adaptation of the Terry Deary. Book has a couple of thieves breaking into the Egyptian gallery of a museum. Also there are the pompous curator and a not-too-interested student. The inept modern equivalent of ancient tomb-robbers go for a statue of Rameses II. Big mistake.
If there’s perhaps too much talk and not quite enough story for the first part – this was the first of the Deary books to be adapted by the Birmingham Stage Company – things liven up when we come to the mummification process. Very detailed, and eliciting just the right mix of audience response (children do so love the grisly bits). In the second half the 3D effects by Amazing Interctives really come into their own, Michael Moulton is an imposing pharaoh with Lauryn Redding, Luke Broughton, Gary Wilson and Daniel Thomas playing everyone else.
Although Phil Clark’s direction is suitably brisk and Jacqueline Trousdale’s sets, props and costumes work well, – the Tutankhamun] sequence works especially well, the cast has a tendency to gabble and their personal mikes produced a somewhat distorted sound at the performance I attended. But a company which can fill a building the size of the Theatre Royal and can keep its young audience full engaged with what’s going on for two hours is surely doing the right thing.