A double bill of plays about sleep and sleeplessness
Sleep is a something everybody does – it’s universal. Yet, more and more of us are finding sleep elusive, particularly within our older population. To compound matters we are bombarded with frightening messages about how vital a good night’s sleep is for our well-being, for laying down memories, and even for our brain health. Why is it then that some of us are unable to get a good night’s sleep? And can our sleep deprivation be remedied?
As a company we went on a journey of exploration about sleep and sleeplessness, consulting with sleep experts while tapping into our own experiences and imaginations. The result is a double bill of plays: one a fictional account of five people who can’t sleep, and one a documentary piece about older people suffering from sleep problems.
Five Characters in Search of a Good Night’s Sleep
A new play devised by ViSiBLE Theatre Ensemble,
directed by Mike Alfreds,
scripted by Mike Alfreds and Sonja Linden, and
based on characters created by the actors.
Five Characters in Search of a Good Night’s Sleep is an ambitious ensemble piece of theatre charting the journeys of 5 individual characters over one night, each struggling in different ways with an inability to sleep. As the play moves from dusk to dawn, our attention constantly shifts from one character to another as we observe their sometimes bizarre, nocturnal activities and failed attempts at regaining their sleep. Humour alternates with pathos as the five characters, all in their 60s and 70s, reveal their inner lives and the reasons for their insomnia through compelling monologues, naturalistic streams of consciousness and vivid dream scenes, threaded together with beautifully crafted movement sequences.
A distinctive feature of the work is the fact that it is being devised by an ensemble of outstanding older actors, all of whom have hugely impressive track records with the UK’s major theatres. The work will therefore be of high quality with a richness and depth that comes from working over an extended period. Added to this is the unique premise of a journey through the night of five characters in search, not just of a good night’s sleep, but of answers to questions that face so many people in later life:
What have I done with my life so far, and what can I expect from my shorter life ahead?
The long creation process integral to this piece is the hallmark of acclaimed director Mike Alfreds’ approach to theatre making, befitting the company’s remit. It will be devised over 6 weeks in Spring 2020 in the run-up to a four week run at Southwark Playhouse.
The Sleep Monologues
A new play by Sonja Linden,
based on the sleep experiences of real-life people in later age.
The Sleep Monologues is a 30-minute companion piece to Five Characters in Search of a Good Night’s Sleep, but unlike Five Characters it is a documentary play, drawn from interviews of older people with sleep issues interwoven with interview material from leading sleep experts. It will be followed by post-show Q&As, with panel responses from leading sleep researchers and doctors, to add richness to the audience experience, raising awareness of general sleep issues as well as those that are particular to people in later life.
The Sleep Monologues will be performed twice weekly as a prequel to the main show, followed by a brief interval for audiences to share stories about their own sleep as they relax over a drink and a snack at the Southwark bar before seeing the main show.
Performance dates in London to be announced soon.
Research for this new work is supported by the following distinguished sleep scientists:
Professor Jim Horne
Sleep neuroscientist, Loughborough University
Dr Neil Stanley
Sleep consultant, Sleepstation
Professor Derk-Jan Dijk
Director of the Sleep Research Centre, University of Surrey
In Search of a Good Night’s Sleep is kindly supported by the Diorama Arts Centre, Regents Place, London; Arts Council England; Sleepstation, an online sleep improvement programme; and Sleepstation’s sleep consultant Dr Neil Stanley.