Captain Ferguson's School for Balloon Warfare

Despite the unwieldy mouthful of a title, Captain Ferguson’s School For Balloon Warfare turned out to a be a surprisingly simple, sweet tale of an affable American officer trying to adapt hot-air balloon technology for military purposes during WWI. Captain Tom Ferguson made a charming storyteller, interacting directly with the audience as though they were his platoon of cadets, asking one man to demonstrate the SOS signal with two flags only to declare his attempt was more akin to ‘Help, I’m on fire’.

Though intended primarily for pre-teens, adults with an interest in US military history during the early 20th century may also find the play entertaining. Falling into neither of those categories, neither the twirling of Ferguson’s impressive moustache nor his battle strategy charts particularly amused me – but even so I warmed to the character’s idealism and passion, so was willing to invest in his story.

Hailing from Kansas, Captain Ferguson had been passionate about two things since he was young: the United States Army and flying. Building kites as a boy with a Chinese neighbour from his hometown, Ferguson found a dream that stayed with him throughout his adult life. The play follows his attempts to convince the military bureaucracy of his scheme, the training of his recruits, and the offensive in France.

With some meticulously constructed props, including a wartime transistor radio, and stunning multimedia effects projected onto the back wall the production was incredibly well-crafted aesthetically. The props were very effective in helping to tell the story, but were understated enough not to overwhelm the piece with flashy effects. The scene when Ferguson ascends in the balloon in front of a background of stars, talking quietly about the joy and peace he finds in flying, is both visually stunning and moving.

The show would be perfect for precocious history enthusiasts and also provides interest for parents. My sole complaint is that I felt the tragic denouement was unexpectedly dark, a little at odds with the playful, happy-go-lucky tone of the rest of the play.

Reviews by Laura Francis

theSpace on Niddry St

The Bastard Queen

Traverse Theatre


The Assembly Rooms

A Split Decision

Pleasance Courtyard

Show Off


Since you’re here…

… we have a small favour to ask. We don't want your money to support a hack's bar bill at Abattoir, but if you have a pound or two spare, we really encourage you to support a good cause. If this review has either helped you discover a gem or avoid a turkey, consider doing some good that will really make a difference.

You can donate to the charity of your choice, but if you're looking for inspiration, there are three charities we really like.

Mama Biashara
Kate Copstick’s charity, Mama Biashara, works with the poorest and most marginalised people in Kenya. They give grants to set up small, sustainable businesses that bring financial independence and security. That five quid you spend on a large glass of House White? They can save someone’s life with that. And the money for a pair of Air Jordans? Will take four women and their fifteen children away from a man who is raping them and into a new life with a moneymaking business for Mum and happiness for the kids.
Donate to Mama Biashara now

Theatre MAD
The Make A Difference Trust fights HIV & AIDS one stage at a time. Their UK and International grant-making strategy is based on five criteria that raise awareness, educate, and provide care and support for the most vulnerable in society. A host of fundraising events, including Bucket Collections, Late Night Cabarets, West End Eurovision, West End Bares and A West End Christmas continue to raise funds for projects both in the UK and Sub-Saharan Africa.
Donate to Theatre MAD now

Acting For Others
Acting for Others provides financial and emotional support to all theatre workers in times of need through the 14 member charities. During the COVID-19 crisis Acting for Others have raised over £1.7m to support theatre workers affected by the pandemic.
Donate to Acting For Others now

The Blurb

Enlist with the Captain! WWI changed everything and Thomas Ferguson got carried away by it. Find out what it takes to spy on the Kaiser at 1,500 metres. Sound crazy? It is.

Most Popular See More


From £39.00

More Info

Find Tickets

Tina - The Tina Turner Musical

From £12.00

More Info

Find Tickets

Mamma Mia!

From £21.00

More Info

Find Tickets

The Phantom of the Opera

From £27.00

More Info

Find Tickets

The Play That Goes Wrong

From £24.00

More Info

Find Tickets


From £30.00

More Info

Find Tickets