Through dark comedy and a touch of puppetry, Flumps explores the summer of Felicity (aged 8) and Harvey (aged 12) when their mother disappeared. A witty script combines the essence of being a child, with the harrowing measures of poverty and anticipation of social services involvement, through a mix of funny and thought provoking script.
You can read my full review of the show here:
Emma Pallett is the writer of the show, as well as cast as Felicity, alongside Susie Coutts as Harvey. Everleigh Brenner and Maria Cristina Petitti make up the directing duo, and all four of them have brilliantly contributed to an interview to talk more about the concept behind the production.
What is Flumps about and why should audiences come to see it?
Emma: Flumps follows the story of two children, aged 8 and 13, who are left in their mobile home alone over the summer after their mother goes missing. The two siblings fight to survive, make money and stay off social services' radar. This show has something for everyone: first of all, it’s a very funny play but at the same time it is also a very truthful one. This story is designed to take an audience on a journey that even the most theatre-adverse person cannot resist.
Everleigh: The themes that Flumps explores such as poverty, risk assessment and abandonment are very hard hitting subjects, but as the story is being told through the eyes of children we manage to create an environment where these themes are not only understood but digested in an accessible and playful manner.
Emma, what inspired you to write this show, particularly for yourself to star in?
Emma: This idea began as a very small seed in my mind at the end of my second year at university; I can’t remember the exact moment that I thought of the idea, but I think it was a sort of 3 am- I have to get up and write this down- kind of thing. It started as Felicity’s monologue which I performed at a ‘monojam’ in Nottingham back in 2019 and the response was brilliant, so I felt that
the story had to be told in full.
It happened fairly organically because I wrote the script without fully considering myself to be playing her so it enabled me to write more freely and not make decisions based on what my own brain thought I could and couldn’t do- like puppetry for example. When I took the play to Hoo Hah House’s scratch night they offered me Susie to play Harvey and as it was just a scratch night, I thought that of course I was an actor and it made sense for me to play the role because I knew it well and could learn the lines quickly; I wanted to make sure that the scratch night piece was the best possible representation of the show. However, as soon as me and Susie began the process we just connected so well as actors and the characters that it just made sense to keep it that way.
Everleigh and Maria, what drew you to directing and producing the piece?
Everleigh: I had never previously thought of myself as a director, but when Emma first handed the script to us, I could see my own childhood folded between the lines. This piece connects to me on a very nostalgic level, and I knew that I could best serve this story from a directorial perspective. The relationship between Harvey and Felicity is very reminiscent of the chaotic dynamic between my younger brother and I. The feeling of unconditional love and frustration, protection and connection is something I was very passionate about being expressed on our little stage, and I think we managed to create that sense of family not only between the two actors, but also throughout the
world we create with our willing audiences.
Maria: When this piece was brought up to us, we only could work with 15 minutes of it as it was for a scratch night. As soon as we read it, our minds exploded with ideas and we vibed straight away with Emma. I knew we could do something special [to bring] this story to a stage and make it vibrate through movement and puppets as it deserved to.
How have you managed to capture everything you want to tell in just 70 minutes?
Maria: Our company tries to encapsulate and punch through our shows. We want our audiences on the edge of their seats, begging for more and pushing their imaginations above and beyond what happened in the auditorium. It’s a challenge, but it allows our performances to be accessible and palatable to a wider audience.
How does your portrayal of the characters express the minds of children?
Susie: Although Harvey is a child, he’s often forced to take on adult responsibilities. Rather
than expressing the mind of a child, I find myself expressing the mind of someone trying to cope with situations and responsibilities which feel impossible to live up to- which is actually pretty common in adult life, at least in my experience. I think most of the childhood joy comes from the
text, our physicality, the playfulness between the two siblings, and their naive-robustness to carry on their adventures everyday despite the chaos around them.
Emma: As a company we are always talking about games: everything that Harvey and Felicity
do is a game and that game always has a winner. This game is constant and it’s both physical and
verbal throughout the show; this really explores that sibling rivalry between them which feels
natural for children at this age. However, this rivalry is mixed with the fact that the two of them
really care about one another and these two things completely juxtapose one another and help
create the chaos that begins to descend. Felicity is 8 so her mind is still building and making
connections between things; her moral stances are very much based on what is needed rather than what is necessarily right, whereas Harvey, being slightly older, has a clearer understanding of
morality and this causes him to battle with it throughout the story. The way in which the storytelling
is done is also a huge reflection on the way in which children view the world; the show itself is a
retelling of what has happened to them and it’s almost like a magic show that a child does for their
parents, but instead this one is being performed to the police.
Can you give us a taste of how dark comedy is fused with puppetry and music?
Maria: The dark and grim bits hit harder when they are diluted through joyful snippets of life. They are children and see beauty in everything, even where beauty doesn’t belong. The puppets’ design fits their world perfectly, built solely by recycled and upcycled materials. The puppetry is the cherry on top to support their universe. It is a very hard-hitting and yet sweet amalgamation of life.
Everleigh: We made a creative choice to set the show in the year 2012 because, selfishly
enough, I would have been Harvey’s age at that time and as a company craved a common dated language. I have very nostalgic feelings for that year that I think a lot of our audiences can see their younger selves in. Therefore the soundtrack is the best of 2012 pop hits, what Felicity and Harvey would hear from the radio in their local corner shop, and puts us right back in the era of silly synths and dope drum solos.
What are some of your most exciting childhood memories?
Emma: Although I have never lived in a caravan a lot of my childhood holidays were spent in
one down in Devon and I have some really fab memories of Torquay and my great aunts who lived
down there; they played a massively important role in my childhood and always seem to feature in
everything creative that I do. Another memory which does sort of get included in this show is the part where Harvey lies about their trip to Australia; I have never been to Australia but me and my
family did spent about five years planning a road trip across America as I had an aunt and uncle who lived out there; I was about Harvey’s age when we went on that once-in a lifetime holiday and it was something super cool that really stuck with me. Lastly, as mentioned above, Harvey and Felicity put on what I described as a ‘magic show’ and me and my brother also used to do magic shows for my parents, I’m almost 100% certain that they were terribly embarrassing and probably consisted of me ‘disappearing’ by crawling out from under the table and hiding in the kitchen to disappear, but we thought we were great and of course my parents didn’t have the heart to tell us otherwise.
Susie: Every summer my whole family would go to Dorset for three weeks to the exact same pitch on the exact same campsite. There were about 5 other families who also came to the campsite every summer and it was the absolute best! I’m the youngest in my family by quite a lot, so my fondest memories all came from those three midsummer weeks with my siblings and parents crammed into our 2 person caravan!
Huge thanks to Emma, Susie, Maria, Everleigh, and everyone in the Hoo Hah House Productions team for the invite to Flumps, and coordinating your answers for this- it is great to hear more about the show, and I can't wait to see where the piece and the company go next!