This interview has been lightly edited for brevity and clarity
First of all, I would just like to thank you for taking the time to have a chat with me today. I’d love to allow you to introduce yourself in your own words, so please go ahead!
Thank you for having me! My name is Emma Pallet and I’m the writer of Flumps, I’ll also be performing in the show as Felicity. I’ve always sort of known that I’ve loved performing. I used to love singing when I was really young, and then at around 14, I realised that I loved acting. My love for storytelling goes much further back than that; I’ve always been a reader and I’ve always wanted to study English at university (that was always my favourite subject at school). I completed a degree in English with Creative Writing at the University of Nottingham in 2019, and the course I did was quite consuming. I still managed to perform in many productions, including taking 2 trips to the Edinburgh Fringe with different companies whilst I studied. As an actor in productions, I didn’t write a huge amount of material during my time at university, and it’s only since graduating that I’ve found my feet a bit with playwriting and the world of comedy. So yeah, that’s me!
What is Flumps all about – what can audiences expect from your show?
I was thinking about this loads because I didn’t want to give too much away. I’d say it’s unusual, I can’t think of a show that’s quite like it in that way.
Flumps is the story about two children, Felicity (8 years old) and Harvey (13 years old) who live in a caravan with their mum. In the first scene, it’s established that their mum has gone missing and she’s just not coming back. They basically have to survive together during the summer holidays, there’s that stretch of time with no school. They need to make money somehow, so that’s how a lot of the comedy comes in with how they make their money and how they avoid social services. It’s about the antics they get up to with no guardian around to stop them from doing silly things. They say that the best shows make you laugh and make you cry, that’s the basis of storytelling, so I hope it’s heartbreaking as well as hilarious. Along with that, we’ve got puppetry which aids the storytelling and brings other characters to life. I didn’t want to have more people on stage, I felt two was enough and I wanted the story to be theirs. You should expect it to be wacky, madness and expect the unexpected!
Is Flumps your first Brighton Fringe show? How are you feeling about it all?
It’s my first Brighton Fringe show, I’ve never been to Brighton Fringe before! So it’s my first Brighton Fringe experience in general, as well as this being the first play I’ve ever written.
I’m really excited about finally telling the story because I’ve had this play in my head for the best part of four years, so there’s an element of just pure excitement about finally getting to tell it. As you can imagine, there are nerves attached to telling this story because it’s my first piece of writing. I do sort of know about how people are going to respond because we’ve done a scratch night and that’s why we’ve continued with it because people really liked it, but there’s always those nerves. Brighton Fringe is full of so many shows and you can only hope to get audiences out to see your show – that they’ll understand what your show is about, they’ll want to see it and tell people they like it so they come too. I think the nerves come from putting bums on seats because I know how competitive it is.
So, your show is heading over to Brighton very soon and it’s produced by Hoo Hah House productions. Had you worked with Hoo Hah House productions before Flumps and what is it like working with them on your current production?
So I’d never worked with them before. It was September/October time last year, I saw a post on Facebook about a scratch night by Hoo Hah House saying they were doing a scratch night for BRAVE FACE & Friends. Obviously, I looked up the show and saw that they did really well at Edinburgh that year. They basically said if you’ve got a cool idea then just apply. So I applied. They asked me to come in and meet them for an interview where they asked me what the show was about and I showed them an extract from the script. We read that first scene together at the interview, and then afterwards they contacted me to do the first 15 minutes of the script at their Scratch night. They found me Susie Coutts who plays Harvey in the show, and they said she would be a good fit for Harvey. I left Harvey open as a non-binary character, as I just wanted to find the right person for Harvey and I wasn’t really fixed on who that was (they just needed to have the right vibes). I thought it would be quite interesting to leave that open, and see who would come to me with that part.
On the day of our scratch night, Hoo Hah House gave us a 6-hour rehearsal space to workshop the first couple of scenes. We had an incredible reaction to the first 15 minutes of the show, and everyone was asking us where they could see the rest of it. Obviously, at that point I wasn’t part of the theatre company – I was just a random person. Two weeks later, Hoo Hah House contacted me saying that they wanted to take my show places and I said yes!
They’ve supported me a lot and helped me with the production side of things which isn’t my area of expertise. I know that some do produce/direct/act/write, but there are people that are good at those things for a reason and that’s not me. Maria (Maria Cristina Petitti) does the production side and Everleigh (Everleigh Brenner) is directing it. They’re helping me with all the jobs that I’ve wanted to avoid doing like applying for festivals. It’s really difficult as an individual to apply for festivals financially and also liaising with venues which can get very time-consuming. So it’s been really nice to have Hoo Hah House help me out. That has all happened in the last 6-8 months.
What was your creative process when it came to writing and creating Flumps? Where did it all begin?
Flumps actually started as a monologue. It began with Felicity as a character, I just wanted to write a funny monologue about a girl. I quite like writing children’s characters because there’s something quite freeing about writing them, they’re less held down, more carnivalesque, and they’ve got more room and freedom. I think comedy comes naturally to children so it felt like quite a nice voice and perspective to go for. The monologue I wrote for Felicity formed the basis of the entire show, it was a comedy monologue called ‘No Comment’ which I performed at the Nottingham Monojam in 2019 run in association with The Actors Workshop where I trained each week in acting whilst at University.
From there, Felicity stayed with me until I graduated, I’d basically written the play in this monologue. After I graduated in 2019, I started writing a script for the play. At the time, I didn’t really like the idea of a one woman show for Felicity, mainly because of fear as a performer (I just prefer interacting with another person). I wanted to explore a relationship between Felicity and someone else. I thought if she’s a young character, then maybe it’s a parent or a sibling – and that’s where Harvey was born into it.
I was thinking hard about my audience too. As a writer, I didn’t want to create a show of what people generally think is ‘perfect’ theatre. I listen to a lot of people around me and none of my family or friends are in this industry at all, so actually I felt that the most important thing was listening to what they like about going to the theatre. They’re the majority of people that are going to see the show., not people who love going to the National because that’s quite a small percentage of your audience. The biggest percentage are those not that fussed about theatre or will sometimes go if they’re dragged along – those are the people you need to capture. My aim was to make it a show that the general population would love.
Flumps is a coming of age story, so I’m curious to know who your personal inspirations were growing up and why?
As a writer, everything you do gives you new ideas and it doesn’t always have to be something that you personally experience. Of course, the concept of Flumps is not autobiographical in any way – as I’m sure my mum would be glad to hear! But yes, as a family, we always went on caravan holidays every year without fail. We went to Devon, rain or shine, and visited my great-aunts down there. That influenced the setting of the place, it’s a familiar space to me. A caravan is a perfect place for a comedy, it’s just a funny place. You know, it’s small and all the doors open out on one another. There’s always too many people for such a small space, it’s always too hot or too cold, it’s always a bit worse for wear with that one dodgy door handle. It’s just a funny space to put people in because there’s always something ridiculous happening in a caravan.
In terms of characters, I’ve always loved eccentric characters. I used to listen to a lot of audiobooks as a child, so character voices used to be a big thing for me. Characters from Alice in Wonderland or Pippy Longstockings, Felicity is a little like that because she’s always doing her own thing and off on her own adventures. My mum always tells me that I was a bit nuts as a kid, so maybe Felicity is basically me as a child just away with the fairies. Harvey is definitely my brother, he is nerdy, loves science and telling you random facts. The sibling relationship had to be grounded in reality, and then the other stuff was invented around it. I really wanted the logical and the illogical to collide in this show and all the contrasts to feed into one another. I want to show that people can be different and exist in a small space. That’s where comedy happens because they’re so different but they have to share this space together.
At Voice, we celebrate the arts and emerging creatives. When did you decide you wanted to be an actor/writer, and how has that turned into a career path?
The turning point for me no doubt was in 2013, when I got into a BYMT project called Le Tabou. I auditioned to get in and went away for two weeks with creative professionals. I wrote a brand new musical collaboratively with other talented young people. The show was mental, wacky, and all about surrealist artists based in Paris. We knew it was going to be a weird show, but we didn’t know how weird. It definitely shaped my career path as I got an agent from the project which really solidified my interest in this industry.
I suppose the writing didn’t come until later, I didn’t necessarily think of myself as a particularly talented writer as a kid. I was good at English, and I enjoyed it so I did a degree in it. Doing that degree changed how I thought about writing, because a third of it was creative writing. I feel like I’m at the start of my writing journey, it’s quite a big thing putting your stuff out there and hoping people like it. I’m really lucky, I have a very supportive family and partner who help me out to do this career path. You know, it’s hard to make it work and make money in this industry at first. At the moment, it’s still a path and I’m trying to walk it as far as possible. Hopefully, Flumps will be part of the journey that will turn what would be an ideal career path into a reality.
What’s next? Are there any projects or plans in the works?
As always, when you are a writer and a storyteller, you always have more plans. I’m doing a couple of shows as an actor. I'm going to the Edinburgh Fringe this year with the show a friend wrote which we performed at Colchester fringe last year. I do have ideas for other projects, specifically I really want to write a folk musical because for me, I feel like country and folk is the essence of storytelling. This is in really early stages, like we’ve literally not started and it’s just an idea. I have lots of other ideas but I’m aware that to make a show work you have to really run with it and you can’t ditch it halfway through. I’m consciously not trying to start too many projects at once because I really believe in Flumps, and I think that it’s a great show, and I want as many people as possible to see it. I don’t want to start on a bunch of other projects and split my time too much when I feel that it deserves all my time. I started Flumps 3-4 years ago, and I want to make sure this reaches its full potential before I start another project.
Finally, when and where can people see Flumps and any more of your creative work?
We are at Brighton Fringe on the 29th of May for two performances and then again on the 2nd of June at the Laughing Horse at the Caroline Brunswick Theatre.
We’ve just been confirmed for Colchester Fringe in October this year. Flumps has also secured a London Run at the Barons Court Theatre in Kensington from 24-28 August.
If you follow Hoo Hah House Productions on Instagram you will be able to keep up with Flumps and all the dates/locations we will be performing the show at.
You can find tickets for Flumps at Brighton Fringe on the 29th May and 2nd June here