“This is not the highlight of my career - this is the highlight of my life.”
Horrible Histories man Terry Deary isn’t normally one for hyperbole, but it’s safe to say he’s properly excited about his latest starring role.
The Hendon-born writer will step out on the stage of the Sunderland Empire next month, as the stage version of the best-selling series returns to Wearside.
Ruthless Romans, Savage Saxons and Vicious Vikings will storm the city from July 12-16.
Terry has been playing the voice of Zeus in the Groovy Greeks throughout the tour, but the recording will be replaced by an appearance by the man himself at Sunderland.
“I first went on the Empire stage when I was five. You just don’t get this kind of thing happening,” he said.
This is not the highlight of my career - this is the highlight of my life.Terry Deary
“This is the absolute highlight of my life - to go back on the Empire stage and appear in a play based on one of my books.””
Terry can’t recall exactly how his cameo role was agreed: “I think I went to them,” he said.
“They said this tour ends after 40 weeks at Sunderland and I said ‘I have got to be in it.’
“They were thrilled. I approached them but they snapped my hand off.”
Terry is, of course, best known for the Horrible Histories series, which began in 1993, but has written a wide range of other books, as well as working as an actor - including the occasional appearance in the hugely successful Horrible Histories CBBC TV series.
“I am a professional actor,” he said. “I did a movie last year in which I play a Scottish shopkeeper and I turn into a zombie. I do a one-man show.”
The Groovy Greeks will see him exercise his vocal cords in a song specially-written for the show.
“I was a folk musician in the 70s,” he recalled. “I sang in the same club as Dave Stewart when he was just a bairn. He was probably too young to be allowed in but he was so brilliant they let him in.”
The new song replaces one about Zeus’ amorous adventures that Terry felt might perhaps have been inappropriate for one of his years.
“I said ‘I can’t sing that,’ and so the new song is absolutely unique to Sunderland.
“It’s about how there’s nothing in the world like Zeus’ Wonderland, except for the wonderful city of Sunderland.”
Apart from treading the boards, Terry is still working on the Horrible Histories.
“The series is still going and still going strong, though I write fewer these days,” he said.
“I am writing one a year these days.”
The television series returns next year and Terry is also in the early stages of talks about a Horrible Histories movie, though it won’t feature the TV cast.
They recently did their own movie, ‘Bill,’ telling the (fictional) story of William Shakespeare’s early life. “That was billed as ‘Horrible Histories comes to the big screen.’ It wasn’t,” said Terry.
“It was about what Bill was like when he was a lad - Horrible Histories tell real stories.
“This one I’m in negotiations about will really be Horrible Histories comes to the big screen.”
When he’s not working, Terry is still a keen runner.
“Brendan Foster is going to make a film for the BBC about me doing the Great North Run this year - its my 20th,” he said.
“I still run regularly. It hurts a bit more these days.”
And he has taken up the SAFC season ticket he gave up when Paolo di Canio arrived.
“I got it back when Gus Poyet came in and I’ve renewed for next season,” he said.
“I got my ticket when it looked like we were going to be relegated. I thought, ‘well if we’re in the Championship, we’ll win a few more.’
“I’m much more optimistic this year with Sam Allardyce in charge.”
*Fancy seeing Horrible Histories for yourself? We’ve got a family ticket (two adult, two children) to the performance at 7pm on Thursday, July 14, and a Goody bag including Horrible Histories books to give away.
Just tell us who Terry is playing in the Groovy Greeks. Send your answer and full contact details on a postcard to Katy Wheeler, Sunderland Echo, Alexander House, Rainton Bridge, by Tuesday or e-mail email@example.com.
Tickets are non-transferable. No monetary value given.