Steven Atkinson on Programming Disruption

Steven Atkinson on Programming Disruption

Posted on July 10th, 2019

The first time that I saw a show at The Public Theater (America’s defacto National Theatre, and the originating producer of HAMILTON) I remember leafing through the Playbill and being surprised to see that the Artistic Director had written a letter of introduction for the play that I was about to see.

We don’t do that at home, I thought.

I liked it. I understood better why the theatre produced the play.

But shouldn’t the play speak for itself?

While the following six plays should and will standalone as brilliant pieces of work, we chose to bring them into one season, officially dubbed DISRUPTION, in a partnership with Assembly Roxy.

The concept of DISRUPTION comes from wanting a space for political, provocative, and contemporary new work. DISRUPTION is new writing at its peak from playwrights in their formative years as writers. DISRUPTION is the future of new theatre.

These six exceptional shows were chosen carefully from hundreds of applications, with a call out to emerging writers for exciting, fresh work. We were thrilled to provide a brilliant home for these performances at Assembly Roxy, and doubly excited to welcome the incredible teams behind the shows into our tight-knit family at HighTide.

You will make up your own mind of what to see in the giant Fringe catalogue, but if nothing else, these are my own glowing recommendations of each show in the DISRUPTION season.


Two-handers are hard. They are prone to get predictable. But then came Kenny’s play about an affair, and it kept me guessing about their motivations. I also remain torn – do I want this affair to continue or stop, because I care for the characters and there’s pros and cons to either outcome.

I also want to work with the director, Eleanor Rhode, at every possible chance. There’s huge heart in her direction as well as intelligence, and it’s the former that lots of directors forget at the expense of putting their undergraduate thesis on stage. She’s the real deal.


Emotions also motivated my support of Charlotte’s play. They have created a terse and riveting relationship between a father and daughter. And in its depths of feeling I can tell that it’s cost them something to write this. So, who wouldn’t want to experience something as true and exciting as POPS in the theatre? I’m convinced that it’s Charlotte’s ambition and bravery that has attached such a talented creative and production team to the show.


I’ve always looked to have experiences in the theatre that I’ve never had before. I’ve been fascinated by the increasingly public conversation around gender identity, both the acceptance of changing and pluralistic genders, and also the attempts to validate intolerance to this (as evidenced weekly in Sunday Times articles). Teddy and Mika’s shows are an ambitious theatricalisation of their life experiences, they celebrate their culture and they expanded my understanding and appreciation of their worlds. They feel like an essential experience to be part of.


Two handers are hard, but monologues are harder. Because the industry is saying now ‘where’s the next Phoebe Waller-Bridge? The next Milly Thomas?’ and through Phoebe’s and Milly’s brilliance we’ve been spoilt to think the monologue is the perfect vehicle for female writer / performers writing fresh and contemporary Netflix-friendly theatre.

Well, Margaret doesn’t perform COLLAPSIBLE. But she does have a spot-on insight into being a young woman in a city, and the issues that have arisen from modern life. Commentators trivialise being a millennial, but like any social group, there are serious underlying issues. Margaret gets this, and I think she’s going to be a hugely famous writer based on the talent displayed in this play.


Assembly Festival runs the Roxy in Edinburgh as a year-round venue dedicated primarily to supporting local theatre makers. Their programmer, Luke Holbrook, is incredibly excited by Kevin and Sonnet Youth, and we both jumped at the chance to have them in DISRUPTION given that the Fringe should particularly showcase local talent and not just enterprising tourists. HighTide has produced a lot of talented Scottish theatre makers, and I’m excited for Kevin’s work to sit by proxy alongside that of Kieran Hurley and Rob Drummond.


In a late addition, we have also teamed up with BBC Arts and BBC 3 to present two exciting radio plays. Last year I was approached by producers at BBC Radio 3 with a very interesting proposition. They felt that BBC Radio 3’s drama brief, which in my words is quality, challenging pieces, fit well with HighTide. Together, we explored the notion of what it means to write and stage plays for both a live audience and radio audience. It also provided HighTide the chance to work again with two alumni, and we were lucky to engage the interest of Tallulah Brown and Vinay Patel, who have written their own plays, with an awareness of the others, and here we have an exciting and unique experiment very much in the spirit of Disruption.