How Not to Drown

Theatre (new writing, true-life)

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  • Traverse Theatre - Traverse 1
  • 19:00
  • Aug 25
  • 1 hour 20 minutes
  • Suitability: 16+ (Guideline)
  • Country: United Kingdom - England
  • Group: ThickSkin, Traverse Theatre production with Tron Theatre, Lawrence Batley Theatre
  • Warnings and additional info: Strobe Lighting, Strong Language/Swearing, Violence
  • Accessibility:
    Audio Described
    May not apply to all performances. You'll find more information about accessibile performances and how to book tickets in the accessibility tab below.
  • Babes in arms policy: Babies do not require a ticket
  • Policy applies to: Children under 2 years


A painful yet uplifting true story of a child asylum-seeker arriving in the UK. At 11 years old, Dritan is sent on the notoriously perilous journey across the Adriatic to a new life in Europe, only to continue his fight for survival in the British care system. 'I don’t know why my Dad let me go... I was too young, too weak, to make this journey. He wouldn’t have sent me unless there was a reason'. Award-winning theatre company ThickSkin (Chalk Farm, The Static) returns to the stage with an action-packed, highly visual production.

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General venue access

  • Audio Described
  • Accessible entry: Traverse 1 has a steep rake so if you have any access requirements, there is level access into the building via lift. Duty Manager will show customers into the theatre to their seat/space. If not taking the lift there are 29 steep steps from the bar Bar to Stage Level of Traverse 1.
  • Wheelchair access type: Building Lift

  • Stairs: 20+
    Number of stairs is provided as guidance and is not in addition to any wheelchair access type (lift/ramp etc) stated above.

Each venue can contain several space with different accessibly information. Visit the venue page for full venue accessibility info

Audio described performances

  • Dates: 16 August
  • Type: Unit with headset
  • Booking options: You can book independently online, or contact our access team to book your tickets and request any specific seating locations or if booking a unit is required.
  • More about this show: Listen to audio flyer

How and when to make an access booking

Our access tickets service is available to anyone who:

  • Would like to book specific accessibility services, e.g. a hearing loop, audio description headsets, captioning units, seating in relation to the location of the BSL interpreter
  • Requires extra assistance when at a venue
  • Has specific seating requirements
  • Is a wheelchair user
  • Requires a complimentary personal assistant ticket to attend a performance

Maurice McKeown 88 days ago

90% of my fringe shows are music, comedy, acrobatics, cabaret etc. I'm glad I decided to see this play. It grabbed my attention from start to finish and I thought the cast were brilliant.
Thought-provoking. 5 star show.

Sean Davis 89 days ago

How Not to Drown (*****)
This is the true story of how an 11-year old boy made his way from Kosovo to England, and then spent his teen years in foster care and educational systems poorly equipped to deal with children who don’t speak English. The play is careful to blame the UK systems, and rarely indicts individuals as intentionally mistreating him. As a Traverse play, we are treated to a tilted wood square set that is creatively transformed into ships, and buildings as needed with just steel fencework.

This was the most enjoyable of the 113 Fringe shows I have seen so far this year. You may see my other three-sentence reviews, in order from most enjoyable to worst, at my non-commercial website:

Dave Lake 90 days ago

"How Not to Drown" is a brilliant play about being a refugee and asylum seeker written by the young asylum seeker portrayed in the play. Anyone who thinks leaving one's country and culture to seek safety in another country which is very foreign to yours is easy must see this brilliantly written and acted play. It will make you more sensitive to asylum seekers and everything they must go through in forsaking their own culture and country to save their lives. This is a MUST SEE for everyone to understand today's asylum seekers and other refugees.

Stephen 90 days ago

Can understand why this was sellout when we saw it.Amazing cast who''glided'' from one character to another.Raised lots of questions re immigration/refugees/social care. Not sure if everyone would agree with writer's probable views,but eh, is that what theatre is about!

John Dewhurst 92 days ago

True story of Distran Kastrati who wrote and starred in this play about his plight as a Kosovan refugee sent to UK as 9 year old by his father after the Balcon War.
The play told the story of Distran and his struggles with the care system. The story was presented skilfully and acted by a young cast of 5 who played a multitude of parts.
Distran obviously encountered many difficulties but it is to his credit as well as the care system that he is now able to articulate his story so well. Britain gave him a home which his own family denied him.
Thought provoking and moving.

Julia K 97 days ago

This is the best thing we've seen at the festival for several years. Brilliant, with superb acting. What packs such an emotional punch in this true story of a child asylum seeker is that the lead actor is the refugee himself. Standing ovation at the end. If you see nothing else in Edinburgh this August see this.

Chris Glasbey 99 days ago

The best thing I've seen so far this year. A moving story of a boy's life, first in Kosovo and then in UK foster care: acted out by the grown up boy plus four others, with a spare/elegant script and set.

5 stars

Participants - for further details on our audience and published review policies, including how to add or opt out of reviews, please click here.

An Organised Mess 83 days ago

How Not to Drown is a moving and emotional adaptation of Dritan’s life by Nicola McCarthy. A true ensemble enabling a collaborative presentation of the complexities not only of the physical turmoil but the emotional impact of seeking asylum.

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British (5/5 stars) 89 days ago

This play will stay with you long after Ditan has told you his story, and is inspitational and moving, the story of a survivor of the worst and best of humanity

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ThreeWeeks (4/5 stars) 92 days ago

A large square of wooden decking is raised above the floor, tilting and turning at points in the show, looking like the deck of a ship rocking from stormy waves. It’s the perfect setting to capture the turmoil of this true story. Exploring the life of a refugee boy making...

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The Herald [paywall] (4/5 stars) 95 days ago

There is more than one moment in Nicola McCartney and Dritan Kastrati’s new play when you suddenly remember that the situations Kastrati is bringing to life in Neil Bettles’ production are things he actually lived through. These moments jolt the brilliantly stylised choreography into a devastating self-portrait of real life...

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The List (3/5 stars) 95 days ago

As asylum seeker reflects on his journey to the UK and his experience of social services...

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The Scotsman (5/5 stars) 97 days ago

Theatre partly exists as a safe space where we can walk a mile – or hundreds of miles – in someone else’s shoes; small wonder, then, that refugee stories have recently become a key element of British theatre, as a form of resistance against the idea that refugees and asylum...

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Miro Magazine (3/5 stars) 97 days ago

Explaining complicated international politics to an innocent, questioning child highlights how pointless and infuriating the system is. Dritan questions why he had to leave, why he had to learn How Not To Drown, and no one can ever give him a real answer. But the emotional turmoil of his brave journey remains just out of reach, never finding its true home.

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ScotsGay (4/5 stars) 98 days ago

Dritan Kastrati is only eleven. He has grown up in Albania, but now his father is sending him via an underground network to England, where he says Dritan will be safe, with his brother Alfred, who arrived there a few years earlier. When he was six, Alfred and his gang...

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Edinburgh Festivals Magazine (4/5 stars) 98 days ago

The raft-like stage tilts at a perilous angle towards the audience. It symbolises the insecure journey of Dritan Kastrati, not just on his childhood escape from a Kosovo under civil war but also his arrival in the UK as an 11-year-old with no English and nowh...

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The Skinny (3/5 stars) 100 days ago

For those out there who claim to have an understanding of the ‘immigration crisis’, How Not to Drown aims to be a reality check, but unfortunately falls short. The narrative concerns eleven-year-old Dritan Kastrati, a Kosovan-Albanian refugee put in the hands of smugglers and taken out of the country and across...

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The Wee Review (4/5 stars) 101 days ago

When we read or see news about asylum seekers or illegal immigrants coming to the UK or into Europe, in the media much of the attention is about the crossing these individuals must make. In interviews, refugees talk about the better life they hope to have and the risk they...

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All Edinburgh Theatre (3/5 stars) 101 days ago

How Not To Drown at the Traverse is an involving and humane piece of theatre, detailing stories that need to be heard. However – in theatrical terms – problems of structuring cause its impact to be diminished. ThickSkin and the Traverse, with the Tron and Lawrence Batley Theatre, are responsible...

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The Stage [paywall] (3/5 stars) 101 days ago

Dritan Kastrati was 11 years old when his parents sent him on a treacherous journey from his home in northern Kosovo across Europe to London. As in last year’s Adam, another true-life tale of migration, Kastrati performs his own story in a play co-written with Nicola McCartney. He describes the...

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Fest (3/5 stars) 102 days ago

There’s a word in Albanian, “besa”, that translates as “faith” or “word of honour”. As Dritan Kastrati puts it, “if I can help them I should help them”. The concept pulses like a heartbeat through How Not to Drown, Kastrati’s theatrical retelling of his experience as a refugee. On the...

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The Guardian (3/5 stars) 102 days ago

Dritan Kastrati has an extraordinary story to tell. As an 11-year-old Kosovan-Albanian refugee, he was entrusted by his father to people smugglers to make his way by boat, train and lorry across Europe. We know he survived because he and Nicola McCartney have fashioned a play out of his story...

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Whats On Stage (4/5 stars) 102 days ago

The posters for How Not to Drown show a split face, a man and a boy with the tag line "The true story of an 11-year-old asylum seeker arriving in the UK, told by the man he is now." That is exactly what the play is; its power springs from...

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Participants - for further details on our audience and published review policies, including how to add or opt out of reviews, please click here.

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Participants - for further details on our audience and published review policies, including how to add or opt out of reviews, please click here.