Dreamless Sleep at the Arts Theatre
For the next month, two wooden boxes at the centre of a small, understated stage will form the setting for Georgie Staight’s Dreamless Sleep, an honest and mature reflection on relationships and how they can come undone. Staight’s script walks the audience through the beginning of the affair between two women, played by Hannah Lawrence and Niamh Watson, by way of an array of episodes that dance between laughter, anger, and a particularly funny moment in a hipster café. However, the tone darkens as one of the women decides to reveal a difficult truth she has harboured for a long while, and one that will force the pair to come to terms with the inevitable end of their romance. They are faced with a decision: to call it a day, or to carry on in spite of the expiration date that has been imposed upon their life together.
That this story is told with two actors and the barest of sets is a testament to the power of the script, and to the raw talent Lawrence and Watson bring to the production; the performers barely leave the stage once over the course of the show. The narrative shifts between the serious and the silly, and to increased extremes as the play progresses. The jumps in mood risk being too stark in certain moments, but Staight, also the director, pulls it off. Observing the relationship between two people grow and struggle in such close quarters forces the audience into a voyeuristic position, which at the darkest moments of the drama is an acutely discomforting sensation where viewers almost feel they should look away. But it is the result of a truly engaging performance.
The dialogue between the two women flows seamlessly between the episodes, the transitions aided by the highly effective use of unobtrusive lights. Indeed, simplicity, clarity and naturalness are the kind of words that spring to mind to describe Dreamless Sleep, but its simplicity belies the complex and messy web of the human relationship it lays bare on the stage.
The Arts Theatre may be small, but the ideas that Dreamless Sleep asks its audience to think about are big, and the story beautifully told.
Dreamless Sleep is at the Arts Theatre from 12th until 21st September 2016, for further information or to book visit here.