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Edinburgh Fringe 2019


Vacuum Theatre

Genre: Contemporary, Physical Theatre, Theatre

Venue: Summerhall


Low Down

Passengers is a consummately delivered piece of theatre that gives us a clever and entertaining take on an important area of psychotherapy.



If you are familiar with sub-personality theory, internal family systems therapy (IFS), or perhaps just the film Inside Out, the premise of Passengers will chime with you.

In a nutshell, IFS posits that our consciousness is made up of a central self and a number of personalities.  In a healthy personality these parts form a happy union .  In individuals suffering trauma for example, or Dissociative Identity Disorder, there is conflict between the parts.  If this sounds weird, consider whether you have what some refer to as an ‘inner critic’.  Such critics often become too powerful.  Their wish is to keep us safe by not taking risks, but they are often formed when we were young and vulnerable; they don’t know that we are grown ups now.

Passengers, written by Kit Redstone and developed and directed with Jessica Edwards, beautifully explores this territory. Redstone is joined in performance by Neil Chinneck and Jessica Clark (who also contributed to the material).  Between them they play the respective roles of savage, peacekeeper and critic, personalities that are a part of the ‘tangling, jarring calamity that is Max’.  Max’s conscious self is voiced by Rory Fleck-Byrne.

Alberta Jones as designer has created a playing space of scaffolding and steps – part playground, part prison – on which the ensemble hang, clamber and posture.  The piece is ripe with physical and sensory metaphor.  Owen Crouch’s soundscape provides an almost constant backdrop – effectively suggesting menace, weirdness, joy and (literally) alarm, as needed.

The ensemble give intensely physical and energetic performances and deliver a strong narrative.  We see, all too clearly, the physical ramifications of self delusion or attempted escape.  We watch the personalities at odds – the critic shaming the others (‘speak up please’); the savage pushing Max into extreme and numbing behaviours; the peacekeeper self-deluding in order to avoid the painful truth.

The implicit message is that these personalities have developed over time to protect the self.  They mean well, even when their behaviour seems disruptive or restrictive.  The trick is to value and love them.

There is a brief reference to the audience perhaps being able to help Max, but this is not pursued for long, and it feels that to do so might have distracted.  It is perhaps a reminder that Max has numerous other personalities who we haven’t met today.

At times we are so engaged in the theatrical tale that we focus on the three characters as individuals, forgetting what they represent.  At others, references to Max or to the need to ‘work together’ (or integrate), signal the underpinning theme.   In therapy, it is important to spell out the dynamics of the internal system.  In theatre, perhaps we need a little less of this.

Nevertheless, overall it is an extremely effective device.  There is a beautiful moment when all three personalities start to give their point of view of the same story; a story that has been buried because of the trauma it holds.  This kind of integration is where healing begins.

Passengers is a consummately delivered piece of theatre that gives us a clever and entertaining take on an important area of psychotherapy.


Passengers runs at Summerhall until 25 August (not 19)

Trauma support is available from