The Red Helicopter
by Robin French
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Cast: 7f 8m
A thrilling, epic story about innocence, community and the dangerous power of unquestioning belief.
It’s 2072. Following a cataclysmic economic and social decline, the UK has been abandoned by its inhabitants in a mass exodus. Almost everyone got out. Almost.
In a disused office somewhere in the ghost city of London lives a group of 20 abandoned young people. At the top of a ruthless hierarchy is 16-year-old ‘Daddy’, who has taken control of the only Internet connection, promising that one day they will all be lifted to safety by a red helicopter.
But when a stranger from the North arrives looking for a girl who disappeared from the group a year ago, nothing can ever be the same again….
The Red Helicopter was first performed at the Almeida Theatre, performed by the Young Friend of the Almeida LAB Company.
Content guidance: This play contains strong language, references to violence and onstage portrayals of violence.
About the author
Robin French is an award-winning playwright and screenwriter. His first play, Bear Hug, won the Royal Court Young Writers’ Festival and was produced at the Royal Court, where it earned an extended run. Subsequent productions include Gilbert is Dead (Hoxton Hall), The Red Helicopter (Almeida), Heather Gardner (Birmingham Rep), The Get Out (Royal Court), and Musical Differences (National Theatre Connections). His new play Crooked Dances will be produced by the RSC this summer, followed by another new play Rebel Music at Birmingham REP in September.
Robin’s short film Crocodile won awards at Cannes, Encounters and Guanajuato Festival in Mexico, and was BIFA nominated for Best British Short. Alongside his friend Kieron Quirke, Robin co-created and wrote five series of the hit BBC sitcom Cuckoo, starring Greg Davies, Andy Samberg, Taylor Lautner and Andie MacDowell. Cuckoo was BBC3's biggest-rating comedy launch and garnered nominations both at BAFTA and the British Comedy Awards. Their credits also include creating and writing thirteen-part US sitcom series Roommates (ABC Family) and eight-part mystery drama Trinity (ITV2).
Robin is currently writing a feature film about David Bowie and Iggy Pop, as well as developing new drama projects for television. When not writing, he enjoys working on his indie/samba band Sugarcane.
Interview with Robin French
The Red Helicopter features a dystopian vision of London after a large-scale disaster. What drew you to write a play in this setting?
I’d read an article a few years before saying climate change could make the UK become colder rather than hotter – the idea of an Arctic dystopian Britain felt intriguing. Something interested me about the reverse Windrush that might happen in those circumstances – with the rich powerful people ending up fleeing the UK for the Caribbean. I wondered about who would be left behind.
There is some very visual and descriptive language in the play. What inspired you when writing it?
The play was written for The Almeida LAB company. Before I wrote it, my friend Tessa Walker, who directed the first production, ran a brilliant series of drama workshops with the group of young actors who would be in the play. Being near their energy and humour was very inspiring for me. As for the visual and descriptive language, I always like plays which establish an imaginary geography beyond the wings of the stage.
The characters in the play have had to grow up too fast. How did you find exploring complex issues with young performers?
I remember being a teenager - there were subjects that were awkward for adults and teenagers to communicate about effectively. But adults encouraged me to read – and in books, I encountered a lot of challenging topics. I used to find that thrilling. Books and plays are places where difficult issues can exist and be safely explored.
Do you have any advice for actors performing the play, or for directors staging it?
Remember to invite me to come!