Nervous flyers should steer clear* of the Churchill Theatre in Bromley this coming weekend, because GASP! Theatre Company are performing their newly written and devised comedy Not All Plane Sailing. Fast-paced, satirical and entertaining, the play follows the story of Norma, Aoife, Gigi and Joyce – four eccentric air hostesses aboard the new Concorde 9745. Audiences are invited to join them on the plane’s first flight, but watch out – a brash pilot, near-crash and fatal nut allergy lie ahead, writes Holly O’Mahony…
GASP! was founded by Georgina Stafford, Alex Saunders-Yates, Sophie Kronenberg and Philippa Holmes, when the four were studying together at the University of Kent. The company currently has a residency there, with the School of Arts. “We worked together on a project in our first year,” Alex says. “We found working together easy and bounced off one another’s energy and ideas.” Following some positive feedback from peers and tutors, the girls decided to form the company together, with an aim of creating farcical, daring and intelligently silly performances – peppered with cross gender casting and multi-role playing. It’s not only about the larks, though, GASP! also has a second aim to conjure thought-provoking messages and express empowerment through mockery.
“As an all-female company we would be missing a trick if we didn’t root our work within modern day feminist ideals,” explains Alex, who says the inspiration for Not All Plane Sailing came from exploring real-life situations in which women are more often the dominant figures. “After watching things like Come Fly with Me, the play Boeing Boeing and Airplane, we decided that farcical comedy set on an aeroplane would be something fun and interesting to play around with. We were also able to highlight the prejudice that can often be surrounding female air hostesses.”
So, are any of the girls nervous flyers themselves? “Pip hates taking off and landing, especially when the plane tilts, and Sophie just gets very excited,” laughs Alex. “She once got told off for getting too excited, and making another passenger nervous!”
Not All Plane Sailing is the company’s second show together. Their first comedy, She Wears the Trousers, toured around Kent and Surrey before having a successful run at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival 2016. So how did the devising process for the second show compare to that of the first? “The devising process for Not All Plane Sailing ran more smoothly because we had a better understanding of each other’s work methods,” Alex explains, commenting that a lot of the ideas for the show were sparked whilst they were touring She Wears the Trousers. “The creative process has had its challenges but it has been incredibly fun! We all have very strong voices and ideas, and all contribute to the writing aspect of the piece. Some rehearsals are much more practical whereas others can be more of a sit down writing session.”
This is not the first outing for Not All Plane Sailing, either. In 2017 the company performed the show at a theatre on the Canterbury University campus. “It was a great way for us to test the material,” says Alex. They then took it to NAPS in Redhill and the Courtyard Theatre in Hoxton. Following the performances at the Churchill Theatre, they’ll take it to the Rose Theatre in Kingston – as part of the International Youth Arts Festival – then back to Redhill for a double bill of both shows before heading to the Faversham Fringe at the end of August.
“We would love for the audience to take away with them some of the deeper socio-political messages within our shows,” Alex says. “But ultimately our priority for our audience is to have them laughing out loud!”
*Nervous flyers should come along anyway, have a laugh and face their fears.
Not All Plane Sailing is on at the Churchill Theatre, High Street, Bromley, BR1 1HA on 23 and 24 June at 7:30pm and additionally at 2:30pm on the 24th. Admission: £10/£8.50 concessions. https://churchilltheatre.co.uk/Online/default.asp