If you want a perfect example of where fact is eerier than fiction, this is the play for you: Analogue’s Sleepless explores the devastating effects of Fatal Familial Insomnia on a family, based on the true accounts of this rare disease. A mix of scientific inquiry and dramatic retelling, Sleepless is a play that will spark your curiosity – not only about a very unique and horrifying illness, but about what it takes for the sick to be cured.
The sinister overtones of economic demand play out against the disturbing personal story of Cosima Trevisan (Balvinder Sopal), an expectant mother who receives a phone call: her own mother, Francesca (Andrea Quirbach), is found dead. Though the start feels rather disjointed, we settle nicely into a pace and rhythm reflective of a dreamlike collage – the threads of each aspect of the story slowly overlapping to form a captivating whole. Hannah Barker and Liam Jarvis have written an excellent play, which balances the scientific and emotional with skill. Sopal and Quirbach give the stand out performances, their relationship the thread which effectively ties together the whole _ Quirbach in particular hypnotising spectre, cast over the entirety of the play. They are supported by a strong cast, switching and shuffling characters alongside the moving set.
On this note, the set and technical design (by Anike Sedello and Helen Mugridge) are strikingly beautiful; a layering of projected image, stark white moveable set pieces, and deathly iconography. It’s creepy in a good way – a combination which makes for highly aesthetic viewing, realising the brain-like sparks of neuron activity, as the play declines into sleeplessness, and death.
Sleepless is delicately assembled, an ambitious play executed with sophistication. A fascinating subject in and of itself, Analogue have realised a powerful story through a profound layering of multimedia and performance. It is an experience as unique as the disease itself, and will leave the mind ticking long after viewing.
Review by Christina Calgaro
A woman lies awake. Pupils like pinpricks, skin saturated in sweat, the odd jerk of a muscle. She hasn’t slept for 3 months. She knows what is happening to her and there’s nothing she can do.
Francesca Trevisan’s body is discovered in her car in the North Sea. Her neighbours say she had been acting strangely. Her daughter and a doctor she has never met are left to discover what drove her to commit such an act. Set against the backdrop of an unfolding mad cow crisis, Cosima and Dr Graham go on a journey through history and a race against time to find the cause and cure of a rare disease before its commercial interest wanes.
Inspired by the extraordinary true story of a family cursed with a rare genetic disease that cruelly deprives members of sleep until they die, SLEEPLESS is a story that sits at the crossroads of two cutting edge areas of science: sleep research and prion theory, and begs the broader question: how do we decide the value of a human life?
SLEEPLESS is a new show from Analogue, one of the UK’s most exciting companies, who have developed a reputation for their visual performance style that combines powerful storytelling with rigorous scientific research.
Written by Hannah Barker and Liam Jarvis
Directed by Hannah Barker
Designed by Anike Sedello
Lighting Design by Jürgen Sippert
Sound Design by Elena Pena
Video Design by Christoph Schödel
Dramaturgy by Jörg Vorhaben
Cast: Michael Cusick, Jake Ferretti, Andrew Quirbach, Leoni Schulz, Balvinder Sopal
An Analogue and Staatstheater Mainz co-production
Commissioned by Shoreditch Town Hall
Supported by Arts Council England
Running Time: 90 min
Thu 1 September – Wed 14 September 2016, 7.30pm