17 May 2013

Review: Insomnia Cat Came to Stay

Insomnia Cat Came to Stay
Quiet Little Fox
12 May 2013
Tower Theatre, Malthouse
to 18 May

If you too dream of sleep, there are two nights left to see the beautifully disturbing – and a bit too close for comfort – Insomnia Cat Came to Stay.

I've had a bad sleep week and when reviews slip away, it's because they're written in my head in the useless dark hours of sleeplessness and I've been too tired to get them into real words. I have ongoing sleep issues. "Issues" makes it sound like it's solvable and an inconvenience, but anyone who has seen dawn after hours of lying in bed knows the special hell of insomnia.

Insomnia Cat Came to Stay is Fleur Kilpatrick's response to 18 months of insomnia. Now let's make this clear, insomnia isn't "It was hard to get to sleep last night", it's "I didn't sleep" last night or the night before or the night before. We don't know why, but our bodies are designed to sleep for at least a third of our life and without this time, we break.

Fleur first performed her piece at the 2011 Melbourne Fringe, but for this season (that has already been loved in Perth and Adelaide), the gorgeous creative team of Danny Delahunty (director), Sarah Walker (designer), Thomas Russell (animator), Roderick Cairns (composer/arranger) are joined by performer Joanne Sutton.

Already bound in her white bed-seet world when we enter, Sutton's seems amiable and sweet, then the show starts and she's mesmerising and a little bit scary as she brings nights of sleeplessness to vivid, disturbing life that no amount of valerian can help.

She's too awake to sleep and too exhausted to function. With animations projected onto her bed sheets prison, it's like her dreams are crawling out of her head, without giving her the peace of sleeping through and forgetting them. As insomnia takes over her life, she gives it a name: her insomnia cat. It's a smelly moggy who just turns up and demands attention, but who hasn't learnt to love one of these unexpected friends.

Fleur's writing is lovely and captures her insomnia perfectly, but the biggest joy of this show is seeing how seamlessly the design, music and direction work with the actor and the writing to create something that's so much more than great words on paper.

Thanks to Facebook and Words With Friends, I know that I'm not the only person awake at 3 am. I'm lucky that I can make my own hours as a freelancer and can catch up on sleep when other people are at work. I have no idea how insomniacs function when they have to be at a desk by 9 am. If you've ever got a dirty look or a telling off for being late to work because just leaving the house was so hard that you don't know how you'll make it to lunch time, you must see this show.

Or just see it because it's beautiful.

Photo and trailer by Sarah Walker

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