Tuesday, November 29

Five Characters in Search of a Good Night’s Sleep – Southwark Playhouse

Five characters reveal their subconscious minds as they grapple with their day-time angst and woes.  They sit in chairs, each in their individual homes but sharing a temporal space in a dream-like lilac and blue clouded set designed by Agnes Treplin. Devised by Mike Alfreds, Sonja Linden and ViSiBLE, it has the feel of verbatim as the stories are inspired by the actors’ own lives.

All of the cast fully inhabit their characters so that from their first few lines, you immediately get a strong sense of their personalities. The triviality of their problems and their unextravagant, ordinary lives are endearing and poetic in their realism. This and the truthfulness with which these stories are told make it easy to become invested in and hang on their words.

Sally Knyvette’s Helen is an upper class, luxury loving campaigner who is occasionally riddled with guilt before returning to her unapologetic self-assuredness. Gary Lilburn’s Hugo is a loud Scotsman who is coming to terms with a diagnosis. Vincenzo Nicoli plays Bill who stumbles into a career as a chef and then frustratingly finds himself repeating history in his relationships and work life. Geraldine Alexander plays Terry, a woman trapped by her responsibility to care. Andrew Hawkin’s Harvey is a whirlwind as his inadequacies manifest in an urgency to publish his writing.

It was refreshing to see older characters portrayed in a multi-faceted way that explores existentialism and humanity rather than stereotyping and defining them by their age.

The piece was quite dialogue heavy with a lot of material to digest so it could have done with some more movement direction and lighting to provide more focus on whoever is speaking.

The writing is beautifully candid as are the portrayals of the characters and it is subtly cathartic to watch as the characters gradually work through their issues. With so many snippets of experiences and conflict, any audience member could find themselves in the characters’ shoes as they deal with conflicting desires, guilt, grief, confusion, apathy and turmoil.

Playing until 21st May 2022, https://www.southwarkplayhouse.co.uk/show-homepage/five-characters-in-search-of-a-good-nights-sleep/

Reviewer: Riana Howarth

Reviewed: 29th April 2022

North West End UK Rating: ★★★★