Meet Justin Coe, Creator Of Young Herbert's Horror's
Discover what Justin has to say about bringing Young Hebert to life...
Tell us a little about Young Herbert's Horrors. What's the show about?
Well, Young Herbert lives on a boat with his Mum and likes to think he's a swashbuckling pirate. He's a bit of a horror, always leaving his cabin untidy, never eating his greens, and being rather rude to his Mum. Mum doesn't know what to do to help him be good, so she threatens him with his Great Uncle Albatross, a naval commander and the scourge of all rebels. Herbert thinks Albatross is just one of Mum's made-up stories, but one day he turns up for real and takes charge of the boat. Albatross attempts to scare Herbert into being good by telling him three nautical cautionary tales, but it's hard to make the boy change because Herbert just loves “being a naughty, naughty pirate!”
Deep down, the show is really about the relationship between Herbert and his Mum, and the relationship between all children and their parents, about the conflict and the love between us.
What was the inspiration for the story?
My children! Although the story is told predominately from a child's point of view, the idea came out of my attempts to parent my three young kids.
Sometimes in my desperation to get my children to bed, I'd pretend to ring Inspector Laws and report their naughty behaviour. Then one day my youngest said, “If you don't stop telling us to get to bed I'm going to report you to Inspector Laws”. That annoyed me! But it also made me laugh and I thought it would be fun to write a story where the children get to take charge of the bogie monsters that the adults have threatened them with. That conversation was the inspiration for me writing the show.
Are you a wannabe pirate in real life?
It's a poet's life for me! Though I've spent most of my life living by the sea, I'm much happier looking out at it than being on it. But I have a lot of fun on stage playing at being a pirate and the young audiences have a lot of fun with that too, I think.
What are the pleasures and challenges of working on a show like Young Herbert's Horrors?
The biggest pleasure is seeing the initial ideas realised into poems and characters and all of it coming to life in front of a live audience. But it took me a lot of time to get the script right, because although you can have a lot of fun with language in a spoken word show, the story must be told very clearly for young audiences to follow. I did about seven drafts of the script, the last three drafts were about cutting and editing because there were too many ideas in the end and while, still appealing to parents and older children, we wanted the youngest children to be able to enjoy it as well.
What can audiences look forward to?
I hope that they enjoy a funny and moving story, well told. As well as the great costume and set, we also have some brilliant original music from Greg and Vlad from Greg Hall Music. And there's plenty of lively language, a chance to “arrgh” like a pirate and some rude humour involving a pair of knickers.
Describe Young Herbert's Horrors in three words.
Pirates! Parents! Poetry!
Horror, Humour, Heart.
You are a spoken word performer. What is it about spoken word you like so much?
As a child I always enjoyed playing with words and making up rhymes. In my teenage years, I also found writing poems to be a way of mastering what I wanted to say, when I was unable to say those things eloquently enough in everyday life. Now as an adult, I suppose I do both. Being a poet gives me the chance to play and to say what I think and feel...and also to tell imaginative stories.
Finally, what would you like audiences to take with them after seeing the show?
Ideally a love of poetry, theatre and humanity – plus a copy of my book!
Take to the high seas and embark on a pirate adventure with a twist with Young Herbert's Horrors on 22 September.
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