“Turns out there’s a lot of atrocities of the British Empire involved” | Edy Hurst on deep diving into War of the Worlds for his own re-boot-daptation-homage

What is your show about?

My show is about me, Edy Hurst, doing what the rest of this godforsaken world is too scared to do; finally close the book on the 125 year old book that is the War of the Worlds book by H.G. Wells. Book.

As wells as all of it’s litany of remakes, sequels, adaptations and re-imaginations that plaque our polite civilisation. For too long people have enjoyed this story of Martians invading Victorian Woking, making disco musicals, low budget horror films, and radio shows mistaken for reality, but I’m sure to fix that by having created the ultimate and comprehensive lo-fi comedy rock opera that will be certain to put this bad bird to bed.

Tenacious D meets Mars Attacks.

What motivated you to adapt this source material into a comedy show?

Edy Hurst’s Comedy Version of Jeff Wayne’s Musical Version of H.G. Wells’ Literary Version (Via Orson Welles’ Radio Version and Steven Spielberg’s Film Version) of the War of the Worlds started its life as most things did, a joke cut for time in my previous show.

In my debut Hurst Schmurst, I originally had a bit that discussed and then attempted to recreate with the audience Jeff Wayne’s Musical Version of the War of the Worlds. Because my life and comedy is largely trying to do something very conceptual and high budget with the incredibly limited resources of a children’s birthday party.

The musical is something that is both incredibly obscure, a prog rock/disco version of a Victorian Science Fiction Invasion novel, but some how also very popular, still doing sell out arena tours across the country now. It gave me hope that quite niche interests and daft projects could reach larger audiences, and so Jeff became a little bit of a hero. He’s since been on GB News that has really sent me into a spin.

But it’s not just Jeff, I remember when I was younger hearing Orson Welles’ radio show that made America go mad thinking Martians were invading (it didn’t really but there’s not enough time to go into it), as well as the Steven Spielberg 2005 version which began everyone’s concern about Tom Cruise’s wellbeing. Death, taxes, War of the Worlds, the three inescapable aspects of life.

War of the Worlds seems like this pop culture touch stone that everyone knows a bit about, and as I become more aware of a life awaiting an ADHD diagnosis, I think I’ve become hyper focussed on all the many ways that War of the Worlds is folded into different types of media and entertainment.

I wanted to do a big daft show and War of the Worlds is a story with a lot of clear beats that lends itself well to it, with lots of excuses for mucking around and having some fun with the way we retell stories and exist in a consumerist society.

Has the adaptation proved challenging?

Kinda! It’s been a lot of fun, but also has been as much about what not to put in as it is including things, which seems fair given the novel is 125 years old and probably has a different re-boot-daptation-homage for each year it’s been published.

Wanting to make jokes and funny songs with a work that other people care deeply about is something I’ve been really conscious of. I want to make fun things, but not just take the piss out of stuff for the sake of it. I know that audiences for this show will have a huge mix of relationships with the multiple source materials, and it’s been important to me that I’m respecting the huge range of creativity that other people have brought to the story. But, you know, still being funny about it.

During lock down(s) I started making the podcast Edy Hurst’s Podcast Version of….The War of the Worlds which acted as a way for me to deep dive into the book and make songs, as well as figure out things that I wanted to explore but wouldn’t fit into the 55 minute mark. Turns out there’s a lot of atrocities of the British Empire involved when you look at a novel about Britain’s fear of being invaded by a technologically enhanced culture. Who would have thought?

Serious question – do you prefer the Original or New Generation version of the album? Explain your working.

Original. Hands firmly down. I remember finding the gnarly illustrated vinyl in my parents record collection in between a copy of the Goodies songs and Frampton Comes Alive, which I think explains my musical comedy career pretty succinctly. I didn’t know if it was going to be an audio drama or an audiobook, or even an orchestral score like the Planets by Holst, so imagine the shock when this stomping disco musical track came on telling me all about the probability of anything from Mars coming here. And I think for me that’s the biggest part of all of the Musical Version of that feeling of individual discovery.

Also it’s got Thin Lizzy front man Phil Lynott just pop up half way through, and Richard Burton, heir to the Burtons menswear fortune.

What Progressive Rock Opera/Musical/Sci Fi Horror do you plan to adapt into a comedy show next?

I’m in talks to do a EDM retelling of the Exorcist that I’m really hoping comes off, but I’ve been crawling up the walls to hear back about it. Honestly, the whole thing’s been making my head spin. What have I got to do? Suck cocks in Hell!?

Maybe Wuthering Heights’ Acid Jazz freak out? How about Dr. Frankenstein’s Family Funk Hour? Or Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde as a folk duo like Simon and Garfunkel? But they can never be on stage at the same time as if they’re in some sort of double date sitcom episode?

When and where can we see your show?

You can see me all over the place!
June 3rd – 5th – BRIGTHON, The Electric Arcade, 6.30pm
July 7th & 14th – BUXTON FRINGE, The underground, 7.30pm
July 23rd – KNARESBOROUGH, Frazer Theatre, 7.30pm

28th July, Blizzard Comedy!

And 16th – 23rd August – EDFRINGE, Just the Tonic @ The Mash House, 10.40pm

Hopefully after that there’ll be a bit of a tour towards the end of 2022 and in 2023, but that’s it for now!

Book your free ticket to see Edy perform at Gullivers on 28th July here.

Get this piece – and lots of other cool content – as part of our July 2022 zine here.

To keep up with Edy’s work, you can check out his website and follow him on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.