We're Stuck!

 A brand new show for 8-11 year olds, inspired by the extraordinary abilities and limitations of our brains when it comes to maths. 


About the show

One Tenth Human and China Plate present

We're Stuck!

Created by Sarah Punshon

Commissioned by Shoreditch Town Hall and Z-arts

Originally developed in collaboration with Maths on Toast


Ever got terribly stuck on a problem?  Ever made a stupid mistake and felt like a fool?  Brilliant!  Then this show is for you.

Join us on a special tour deep into the heart of Volcano Industries where you can explore top-secret research laboratories and meet cutting edge scientists struggling with some unusual and extremely tricky problems. They need your help.  But beware – there may be unexpected dangers...

This brand new interactive show, created by award-winning theatre-maker Sarah Punshon, is inspired by the latest educational neuroscience into how amazing and utterly rubbish our brains can be at maths – and how we can best grow our grey matter.  Join our brave and ridiculous heroes on their voyage of discovery, and together we'll struggle with ludicrously difficult tasks, get horribly stuck, and risk total failure. It'll be fun.


WARNING: there may be numbers. And robots.

We're Stuck! is a promenade production performed for a small audience. 

Supported by a Wellcome Trust Arts Award, the Mercers' Company, Manchester Science Festival and using public funding by the National Lottery through Arts Council England


Running time: 70 minutes

Suitable for ages 8-11


The production has been developed in collaboration with five senior neuroscientists and psychologists from the Centre for Educational Neuroscience, University of London, the Department of Experimental Psychology, University of Oxford, and the School of Biomedical Sciences, University of Edinburgh.

If you are interested in booking the show into your venue, please click here for more information.

To read the full evaluation report please click here.

Cast and Creative Team

Writer & Director

Set Design

Sound Design

Lighting Design

Production Manager

Stage Manager



Performed by






Fast-paced and immensely entertaining” 

Londonist  ★★★★★

[read full review]


Adventure, laughter, clowning, maths, didacticism… a triumphant combination” 


[read full review]

Project Partners


Maths on Toast was founded in 2012 to tackle the lack of activities that offered families a chance to go and have fun doing maths in their local communities. The charity run community events where maths is family fun, contributing to improving the numeracy skills and life chances of individuals, and the potential of the UK. They run a number of events and activities including Festival of Triangles, Shape Parade and Numbers x Fun. They have also developed an extensive range of online resources and activities for parents and teachers, that all aim to change the way we see and approach maths.


Z-arts is based in Manchester and was formed in 2000 as a ‘creative space for young people’ with a priority on providing participatory activity. They work with schools and communities all over Greater Manchester, spanning the whole curriculum and strive to be forward thinking in all our projects, making them as relevant, accessible, educational and of course, fun as everyone who takes part in them deserves. Z-arts aims is to inspire and enable generations of young people from Manchester and beyond to use creativity to maximise their potential.


Shoreditch Town Hall is a vibrant destination space in East London, comprising over 48,000 square feet across 70 individual rooms. Having undergone something of a transformation in recent years, from a beautiful but under the radar hire space, to an altogether more exciting destination contemporary arts and events venue at the heart of the buzzing London creative scene, the venue now produces a year round programme of some of the most exciting contemporary performance and theatre, supporting young and emerging artists in particular to create new work.

Thoughts from Professor Andrew Tolmie, Educational Psychologist

What professional interest could an educational psychologist have in a piece of children’s theatre? Actually, quite a lot. Learning is not a smooth process of building up knowledge in a particular area – it goes in fits and starts, often pushed on by sudden insights that make what seemed perplexing previously click into place as if it never was anything other than obvious. This sense of being stuck and then seeing the light is also very often a highly emotional experience that stymies and motivates by turns. Above all, it is frequently not in the classroom that these liberating insights occur, but in some other real experience that connects dry content to something that is more intuitively understood, helping it to come alive.

We’re Stuck! tackles all this with number by placing it in a dramatic context. Many children have difficulties with number because it is an abstract system with what can seem like arbitrary rules that are hard to keep hold of because they don’t make intuitive sense. For many, the bafflement builds up over time into dislike, a feeling of failure, avoidance and ultimately anxiety. They need those moments of insight, of connection to something real, to realise that numbers can and do make sense – and their active involvement in the We’re Stuck! story creates just such moments.

In itself, this might be just one small lesson. We’re Stuck tries to do something much bigger too by demonstrating that feeling stuck is not a permanent condition, but simply the step that comes before insight, and that the next step forward will happen if they give it time – not just with number but pretty much anything. Once children see this, they have grasped a fundamental principle of knowing how to learn – and a key predictor of educational outcomes.

Why do we need a piece of theatre to do this? As a kind of ‘resting’ actor – I went to university initially to study psychology and drama – what caught me about We’re Stuck! from the start was my awareness of the capacity of theatre to vividly crystallise ideas with real-life resonance. It creates a super-real space within which understanding can be permanently transformed within a brief period, rather than being gradually shaped. For children in particular this experience is all so fresh that the educative potential of theatre is enormous.

Talking to Sarah and her team as they’ve developed We’re Stuck! has felt from the outset mostly like a process of agreement. As far as I could see, they had a compelling insight into the nature of learning, and a compelling way of going about helping children to understand it. Seeing one of the early performances at a school in Hackney confirmed that, especially watching children’s engagement with the unfolding plot. It’s been great fun being involved, though – and an important reminder about the value of theatre as a tool for teaching at a time when we’re thinking more creatively about effective education than at perhaps any previous point in history.

Professor Andrew Tolmie | Chair of Psychology and Human Development, UCL Institute of Education, University College London

Volcano Industries Handbook

We’ve been working with director Sarah Punshon, Maths On Toast and games designer Sophie Sampson to create a high quality activity pack based on the maths and learning principles included in We’re Stuck!


Together with Jubliee Primary School and William Pattern Primary school we’ve been testing lots of different games and challenges to include.


Supported by The Mercers’ Company the pack will be given free to every child who comes to see the show. It is designed to be taken home rather than used in the classroom features games and activities including a build your own robot net and a freepost postcard for them to return to Dr Volcano with details of the activities they’ve been stuck on.


The funding from the Mercers’ Company also gave Maths On Toast as chance to develop extensive teachers resources based on the show that extend the ideas and aims of the show into a variety of subjects including PSHE, PE and English.


If you are a teacher who is interested in bringing your class to see a performance please email for a link to the downloadable resources.


The Volcano Industries Handbook was designed by Velcrobelly.

Past performances

22nd Mar 2017 - 25th Mar 2017Lichfield Garrick, Lichfield 
28th Mar 2017 - 1st Apr 2017New Wolsey Studio, Ipswich 
4th Apr 2017 - 8th Apr 2017The Core at Corby Cube, Corby 
12th Apr 2017 - 15th Apr 2017Shoreditch Town Hall, London 
19th Apr 2017 - 22nd Apr 2017The Edge, Hackney - London