In 2005, Martin was asked to help create an education event for Tate Britain for pre-school children. The aim was to stimulate the children's interest in the artworks around them as the figures from paintings and sculptures came to life in front of them. Martin played Henry VIII and, along with two recorder players, ran a workshop which focused on Henry's love of music and the place of music in his court.
Since then, working in historical interpretation and at heritage and museum sites has formed an important part of Martin's work both as a performer and as a writer & director. He has been fortunate to work for organisations including the V&A, The Science Museum, Hampton Court Palace and HM Tower of London, as well as many smaller museums and private buildings.
Martin has a passionate belief in the power of drama and storytelling to open up the past in ways which a guidebook alone cannot, and the impact of interacting with a living, costumed character for visitors, students and enthusiasts, both young and old, remains an inspiration to him.
Martin has previously collaborated as a specialist associate with Oriel Square Publishing & Strategy, advising on theatre and event production. He is also co-editor of Insights Europe, the journal of IMTAL Europe (the International Museum Theatre Alliance)
Originally commissioned for the winter of 2013, Martin's large scale event Christmas with the Conquerors educated and entertained visitors to The Tower of London about what life might have been like at Christmastime in the reign of William II, almost one thousand years ago. Combining stories, songs and poetry from the period, and unfolding over several locations throughout the Tower's site, the event proved a great success and was revived the following year. A 13-strong cast gave the present day visitor some idea of the original use of the White Tower and its surrounding spaces, as well as allowing them to hear Martin's new versions of two Medieval texts: the Anglo Saxon poem The Battle of Maldon, retold as a two-hand performance poem of 20 minutes' duration, and the earliest surviving Nativity play, taken from the French/Latin Fleury playbook.
Inside the 1000-year old White Tower, characters recreate the Medieval tradition of appointing a "boy bishop" from amongst the visitors to preside over the Christmas entertainments
Scenes from the day unfolded around the visitors, such as this scene in which the public are asked to join the Norman army whilst queueing to see the Crown Jewwls
A crowd of adults and children gather at the Tower of London's South Lawn as the cast re-tell the story of the Battle of Hastings.
One of the Tower's cafe spaces was transformed into a Saxon "long-hall" where performers joined the audience in eating, drinking, telling stories and sharing their Christmas customs
The whole event unfolded at one of the Tower of London's busiest times of year. The execution of the event allowed the visitors to experience Christmas as it might have been in 1096 through a variety of advertised activities and pop-up surprises.
Christmas with the Conquerors was commissioned by Past Pleasures, one of the world's leading providers of costumed and live interpretation.
In 2018, Martin created another large-scale Christmas event for Past Pleasures, this time in collaboration with the historian and author Lauren Johnson. Christmas with the Devil's Brood was immersed the audience into the household of King Henry II and his quarrelsome family as they prepared for Christmas together. The event combined stories, songs and Christmas customs from the 12th century, and took place in the magnificent Great Tower at Dover Castle, one of the highest profile sites in the English Heritage portfolio.
In 2009, English Heritage reinterpreted Dover Castle to reflect as accurately as possible how it would have looked and felt in Henry II's reign, and Martin and Lauren were thrilled to be able to use this dramatic and evocative setting to immerse visitors in the world of the Angevin royal family.
In September 2019, Martin took up the position of Research Manager at Past Pleasures Ltd, and will continue to contribute to their work across all their major sites by providing detailed and engaging research to underpin the company's work, and to help support and manage their talented and dedicated team of performers.
That autumn, he was commissioned by Time Will Tell Theatre to create two short shows about science for the Royal Armouries sites at Fort Nelson. The two child-friendly Victorian-era presentations drew their inspiration from the site, one focussing on how scientific advancements helped to build Fort Nelson itself, and impacted on the Royal Navy, and the second exploring how technological advances in the 1880s changed domestic life for the Victorians.
Most recently, Martin worked with Time Will Tell again, to create a Victorian Ghost Tour for Brodsworth Hall, a stunning English Heritage property just a few miles from his home outside Doncaster. The event blended Martin's reworking of two classic stories with a number of local ghost sightings and legends which he had researched. Brodsworth Hall features Grade 1 listed gardens which provided the setting for the event, enabling it to remain Covid-safe, and helping ensure that any changes to local or national restrictions would have only a minimal impact on visitors. The event ran for eight sell-out performances over Hallowe'en 2021.
Martin's work in the heritage sector has included creating bespoke events such as the ones above, advising on how to increase the visitor experience by using live storytellers, and giving talks with or without music to highlight particular aspects of an exibition or show. He has also created sessions specifically designed for schools which mesh with the history curriculum in diverse ways, and is currently developing several new pieces, including one based around the events of 1940 and the Battle of Britain.
If you would like to talk to Martin about bringing a historical character to your exhibition, your school, or even your party or event, get in touch via the contact page.