The pre-preview Q&A before Horrible Histories the Movie (photo: James Kemp)

I went to see Horrible Histories the Movie with my children Lucy and Alexander on Sunday morning at the BFI riverside. They had a preview screening of Horrible Histories the Movie as a combo of their monthly kids shows and also as part of the London Comedy Film Festival (LoCo). Ahead of the screening we had a short Q&A with Caroline Norris (producer & writer), Sarah Hadland and Sebastian Croft (Atti).

Horrible Histories the Movie

The subtitle to Horrible Histories the Movie is Rotten Romans because the core story is the interaction between Orla (a young celt, played by Amelia Jones) and Atti (a young Roman, played by Sebastian Croft). This story is set in the backdrop of Boudica’s revolt against the Romans, see the synopsis below for non-spoilered details.

Lucy in particular loved the movie, and she’s been reading Cut-throat Celts by Terry Deary for the last couple of days. She immediately latched onto the women playing the lead characters for each of the main threads of the story. Like the TV series the movie delivers a lot of historical facts along with laughs. It’s not a sketch show, so the laughs aren’t quite as think and fast as the shows, but there are more than enough. Most of the history is matter of fact, part of the way the story is told, so there’s no feel of preachy education. It doesn’t feel worthy, it feels fun.  There are also songs, some of which I hope make their way onto youtube in a bit.

Strong & Relatable Women

Sarah Hadland with Lucy at the preview of Horrible Histories the movie (photo: James Kemp)
Sarah Hadland with Lucy at the preview of Horrible Histories the movie (photo: James Kemp)

Orla is the main young character, in that she has more agency than her counterpart Atti. Both Orla and Atti are really well played, the actors being friends before they were cast (independently – it came up in the Q&A). You get a real sense of chemistry between them. Orla is obsessed with trying to join Boudica, and wants to be allowed to be a warrior. Her father (played by Nick Frost) won’t let her, but she still manages to sneak off anyway.

Orla’s gran was also really funny, a kleptomaniac liar. She was a great supporting character and kept appearing in the background (and sometimes the foreground) making off with something while asserting that it had been hers for a while…

Boudica (played by Kate Nash) was a great too. She was very modern, talking to the camera, and explaining the total injustice of it all. It made us laugh in places, enthuse in others, and we enjoyed the many songs. Boudica had a real rock star appeal, and Lucy wanted to be part of her army. The way Kate Nash played it really helped, and made my daughter want to read more about The Cutthroat Celts. So thanks!

In the roman space we have the wonderful Derek Jacobi opening as Claudius, on his deathbed. It’s the final scene that never featured in I, Claudius. Nero is upstaged by his mother, played by Kim Cattrall. She is absolutely marvellous in the role, and was another one that Lucy talked about on the way home after the movie.

Overall there were lots of great characters, and the cast came together really well to make a fantastic movie.

Horrible Histories the Movie – Synopsis

Who are the Celts? What have the Romans ever done for us? And why is Emperor Nero dousing himself in horse wee?

Friends, Romans, Celts… lend us your ears. The all-conquering Romans rule the civilised world – and that includes “the stain” that is Britain. While the young Emperor Nero must battle his scheming mother Agrippina for ultimate power, Celt queen Boudicca gathers an army in Britain to repel the rotten Romans. Mixed up in this battle for liberation are the teenage Atti, a reluctant Roman soldier, and Orla, a young Celt with dreams of becoming a warrior like Boudicca. Will they fall on opposite sides or forge a friendship in the chaos of Celtic-inspired rebellion?