Sunday, 30 July 2017

What If The Dramaturgy Falls Out of The Sky?: Dr Anna Harpin @ Edfringe 2017

 …a show for anyone who has ever felt absolutely dreadful

FROM 2 – 28 AUGUST 2017

Developed with support from Bristol Old Vic Ferment, Shoreditch Town Hall, and Arts Council England, Bristol-based theatre company Idiot Child are back at The Pleasance for this year’s Edinburgh Festival Fringe with their new show, What if the plane falls out of the sky?, running from 2 – 28 August 2017.

The show explores fear, anxiety and the idiosyncratic and frankly absurd strategies we employ to manage our sense of impending doom. The audience join the residents of Fear Camp and together tackle their manifold neuroses with gleeful enthusiasm. Idiot Child likes to look after their audience.

Venue:  Pleasance (Beneath)
Previews:  Aug 2-4 (£7)  
Dates:  Aug 5-8, 11-13, 18-20, 25-27 (£12)
Aug 9-10, 16-17, 23-24 Aug 2017 (£11)
              Aug 15, 21-22, 28 Aug (£9)
16:20 (1h 10min)
0131 556 6550 /


What was the inspiration for this performance?

The primary inspiration, in truth, was my horrible experiences of anxiety and despair! I had struggled with a phobia of flying for a few years and eventually came to realise that I wasn’t really scared of flying at all. I was afraid of being alive. 

That probably sounds nonsensical but I think the fear of flying (and therefore dying) stemmed from a really tricky fear of not getting life ‘right’ and then dying feeling a bit like I had massively got it all wrong and wasted my chance. The show explores all these feelings and seems to have really resonated with lots of people so I don’t think I am alone in that experience. This makes the show sound horrifying! It’s not, I promise. If anything it is really life-affirming. 

Is performance still a good space for the public discussion of ideas? 

I wouldn’t make any special claim that performance is the space to discuss ideas or want to claim that it has a special capacity that no other art form does. However, I think that it does do certain things well. As a form it is aware of its own unreality and I think that can be really useful insofar as it reminds us that realities and experiences are made with people (rather than just being fixed and ‘out there’) and thus are possible to change if things aren’t right. 

I also think that theatre, at its root, brings bodies in a room to think together. That’s a political action. Or at least has political potential. I think we need to hold on to these spaces for shared thinking and feeling. Part of this show is aiming to alter the ways in which we talk about mental health. The liveness and collectivity of the event amplifies this dynamic of the show. 

How did you become interested in making performance?

Idiot Child formed as a company a few years ago. We wanted to make work that celebrated those voices and experiences that are often pushed to the side. Our shows are populated by misfits and loners and people who are not strangers to feeling absolutely dreadful about themselves. 

Our work tries to celebrate these figures and make friends with feelings and experiences such as loneliness, failure, inadequacy and so forth. Again, this probably makes the show sound really bleak but it is curiously joyful! Audiences have left remarking how uplifted they feel. But crucially they feel uplifted in relation to being their own weird self. Too much therapy is aimed at making us ‘normal’. We are using art to help us feel more alright being abnormal. 

Is there any particular approach to the making of the show?

We work through a combination of writing and devising. I tend to bring a working draft of the script to rehearsals and then we set about devising from this and further developing the world and the characters. I will then go away and redevelop the script in light of what we have done as an ensemble and it goes back and forth like this. 

We work collaboratively and playfully but most importantly, because there is always a strong autobiographical element to the shows we are keen to involve the actors in the ensemble in the making so that they feel invested and their lives texture and enhance the work. 

Does the show fit with your usual productions?

It is certainly in a similar vein yes. Our work is often likened to other black comedy (usually TV) such as The League of Gentlemen, or The Mighty Boosh, and this piece is of a similar style. It doesn’t surprise me that we get compared to TV because many of my main influences are people like Vic and Bob, but also because our work is perhaps more of a hybrid form that mixes up theatre, live art, TV comedy styles and so on. 

Thematically too it is related to our previous work. However, I suppose it is perhaps a bolder, more ambitious piece than we have tried before. This is our third full length show and we are growing in confidence each time so this feels like a braver piece of work. 

We have started work on our next show – All I need is the air that you breathe – and this too is more ambitious again. So yes, it is aesthetically and thematically related but is pushing the form and ideas further. 

What do you hope that the audience will experience?

We hope that audiences experience two main things. Firstly, that they come to theatre and have a really fun and slightly weird experience. We want to make work that is joyful to be with so that is our first goal. The second aim is that the audience leave feeling just a smidge better about themselves and how hard it can be to be alive sometimes. 

We don’t stake any great claims that this show is therapeutic. That is absolutely not our goal. We just want to begin a playful conversation that invites an audience to think that, actually, they’re alright and that the shit stuff we all experience is common to us all. 

So, I suppose we hope the audience will experience joy and a bit of self-acceptance. And they get a free mojito so maybe they will also experience being a bit drunk at half four in the afternoon. Win win win. 

What strategies did you consider towards shaping this audience experience?

The audience is central to all of our work and we work extremely hard to make sure that they have a positive experience of the theatre. There is a lot of direct address and audience interaction and perhaps the thing that we are most proud of is that audience members often comment that they wish they had volunteered to join in with particular moments. 

We want to make joining in fun and exciting as opposed to the horror it can be! In this sense, we spend a lot of time thinking about how we craft the invitation to participate. The audience is very much the fourth character in the show and that means each performance is fascinatingly different depending on the vibe of the group we have in. 

The cast really love this dynamic and I think that is infectious. So I suppose our strategies are all geared towards the audience having a great time and feeling free to join in as much or as little as they want. We also have several treats for an audience so in this sense one strategy we use is good old fashioned blackmail. Frazzles anyone?

Everyone receives a Fear Party Bag and complimentary in-flight drinks & snacks during the show. Mojitos & Frazzles give everyone a boost. 

What if the plane falls out of the sky? is a funny, tender and unusual show about feelings we all recognise: 

‘What if how I feel about the world and myself at 4am, what if that is the truth? What if the only reason the plane is able to stay in the sky is because I am thinking really encouraging thoughts about the wings?

What if God does exist but I’m not allowed to go to heaven and everyone else is because they all hedged their bets and prayed in secret? What if I get killed in an avalanche and most people are just slightly relieved because now they don’t have to read my novel?’

The show has just completed an eight-venue tour including Bristol, London and the Brighton Fringe. James Pidgeon, Director of Shoreditch Town Hall, says of the show:

“Full of joy, hope, laughter and sadness, this is a very special return from the brilliantly inventive Idiot Child. What if the plane falls out of the sky? embraces all the messy, unpredictable and hilarious things that life chucks at us and whilst you’ll undoubtedly leave the performance with a light-hearted skip in your step, there’s also something deeply moving to take away from the experience”. 

Idiot Child is a theatre company based in Bristol who make playful and peculiar work about how hard it is to be alive sometimes. They create unusual stories based on autobiography and always place the audience at the centre of their work. 

Short-listed for a Total Theatre Award in category of Shows by an Emerging Company/Artist 2013
The co-artistic directors of Idiot Child are Dr Anna Harpin and Susie Riddell.  

Anna, who is the writer and director of the show, is Associate Professor of Theatre and Performance at Warwick University.  Her recent writing/directing credits with the company include I Could’ve Been Better, You’re Not Doing It Right, and Isle of Shame. 

Susie Riddell is a familiar name on BBC Radio 4, playing Tracy Horrobin in The Archers, and having been a member of the Radio Drama Company. Susie trained as an actor at the Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama. Theatre includes Other Desert Cities (The Old Vic), Knife Act (Birmingham Rep/HEARTH), and You’re Not Doing It Right (Idiot Child/Tobacco Factory). For BBC Radio 3 and 4 Susie has played lead roles in Frankenstein, 1984, Mrs Dalloway, The Great Gatsby and Tamburlaine amongst many others. Television includes: Gavin & Stacey, Doctors, Emmerdale, Saxondale. She sings with the City of London Choir. Her other job is being mum to her 2 year old daughter.

Emma Keaveney-Roys is an actress, improviser and singer. She is an associate artist of the Wardrobe Theatre in Bristol, and has devised and performed in many of their shows including Rocky: A Horror Show and Goldilock, Stock and Three Smoking Bears. Emma will be sprinting between venues during the Festival as she is performing in Goldilock, Stock and Three Smoking Bears at 18.10 at Zoo Sanctuary -  What if the plane falls out of the sky?  finishes at 17.30 at Pleasance!

Adam Fuller is a widely experienced performer, puppeteer and director.  He works regularly with companies including Pickled Image, Soap Soup, Green Ginger, and Idiot Child. Adam is a co-founder and director of Open Attic Company and directed their first family show Much Ado About Puffin, which is currently touring the U.K.  Adam also helped devise and directed the hugely successful Goldilock, Stock and Three Smoking Bears for The Wardrobe Theatre.

What if the plane falls out of the sky? runs from 2 – 28 August (excl. 14 August) at the Pleasance Courtyard. Tickets, priced £9 - 12 (concessions and preview prices available) are available from The Pleasance Box Office online at and by telephone: 0131 556 6550.

Website:   Twitter: @Idiotchildco   Facebook:

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