‘I could have been better’ by Idiot Child at Bristol Old Vic


Some stuff happened….

Then I went to see Idiot Child’s ‘I could have been better’ at Bristol Old Vic.

I wasn’t going to write on my blog anymore. A bit like Jimmy Whiteaker. I had a little strop and called the world a wanker.

But while I was there, in the audience, I made something. I made a plane. A paper plane. It was green. I launched it toward the stage. It flew, then my plane was picked out amongst all the other planes, and then the plane became words, and the words became meaningful to someone or someone’s somebody or something. And this person kept them close to their heart.

So I thought maybe I should find a way to give this writing thing another go. Because maybe even if it’s only a few people, or even one person… You can make a meaningful difference, to someone, or someone’s somebody or something, out there in the gloom.

I decide to see the play firstly because of the striking photography which became such an attraction to me I had to then buy a ticket.  I do frequent Bristol South Swimming Pool in Bedminster (a very fine establishment – you should try it) although I’ve never had a penchant for water wings especially.

The play, performed solo by James Whiteaker tells the story of  Jimmy a likeable 30 year old railway worker resigned to a life on the platform where people don’t listen to his announcements and he spends his time as an outside observer of everyday life.  Determined to follow in the footsteps of his all time idol Duncan Goodhew, we witness events in the build up and outcome of the local over 10’s swimming competition, as Jimmy in spite of the lack of a posh swimming kit, magazine exposure or other benefits, uses the situation to his advantage and enters the event in the absence of an upper age limit. Jimmy’s character you cannot dislike, he is reassuringly presented to us ‘flaws and all’ and is vulnerable, idealistic, athletic, romantic with a love for the classic yoghurt drink ‘yop’ and ambition enough to pop out the end of his verruca socks, as well as being childish and disconnected at times.

Jimmy combines comedy, storytelling,  video projection and an all too short moment of a capella as well as some stunning movement embodying the dichotomy of the desire to love versus the desire to fight – with love ultimately winning through.  Also thought provoking were the intriguing hand conversation and now infamous ‘hand dance’ which I was grateful enough to have the best view of.

The storytelling is supported by a brilliant set  – the highlight being an almost floating model swimming pool made of liquorice allsorts (you should go just on this basis alone) as well as video projection and other hanging/suspended items.

(Free floating..photo credit: Bristol Old Vic)

The audience were delighted to take part in the paper plane activity and not one person seemed to hesitate or delay over this at all. I did have one breakthrough moment as someone in the audience declined to volunteer for a different action and Jimmy suggested ‘What about the person next to you?  – this made me think about a number of things.

The final tableaux is a powerful  one and it’s easy to think that the story of Jimmy is all dark, a tale of failure and of broken dreams, but look more closely and you will find that it is a heart warming, funny and often honest commentary about messing up and admitting your truths. For me, ultimately the message of ‘I could have been better’ is this:

It is only at the point of spectacular failure that our journey really begins.

(Bristol Parkway rail station September 5th)

Idiot Child are Jimmy Whiteaker and Anna Harpin  and ‘I could have been better’ is showing at Bristol Old Vic until 13th October . You can book tickets here:


I’d go and see it if I were you…

2 responses to “‘I could have been better’ by Idiot Child at Bristol Old Vic

  1. Pleased to see you writing again, Amy.

  2. No. Don’t stop blogging. that level of honesty is refreshing – and cathartic, I’m sure

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