Exsomnia

It’s an old cliché that there is nothing more boring than listening to someone talking about their dreams. Exsomnia proves that watching an hour of someone else’s nightmares is even less interesting.Exsomnia is billed as horror, and it does try to scare the audience with unsettling imagery, morphsuits and omnipresent sound effects, but these attempts ring hollow and at times become merely bizarre, or even unintentionally amusing. Several scenes are clearly intended to not be horror at all (a conversation between three squeaky-voiced clouds being a particular standout), which would be a welcome change from the rest of the production that could even have strengthened the horror segments by contrast - if they were interesting rather than simply ridiculous.It is difficult to truly empathise with the nameless dreamer and no context is given for this nightmare – not for one moment do we see the waking world. In more capable hands this lack of knowledge could feed into the sense of unease and fear, but instead the audience have no reason to care, and the lack of a coherent narrative – though admittedly dreamlike – turns Exsomnia into a progression of loosely connected scenes. Still, the play does have some consistency in its narrative, creating its own recurrent symbology; a lost shoe, a cup of tea, a snowglobe, a sinister bottle of pills... Some facts can be discerned; the dreamer seems to wrestle with the loss of their mother, which is one of the driving forces of the nightmare.The actors slip into and out of roles, sometimes without regard to gender, with characters denoted only by costumes. This is acknowledged, once, but adds nothing. Delivery was an issue, with the majority of the performers mumbling their way through lines, though this could be attributed to opening night anxiety.The show is full of impressive visuals and at times is very well-lit indeed, but for each perfectly crafted tableau there are others which fall utterly flat. There are continual sound effects, but as these are mostly distortion, shrieking alarms, ominous thuds, retching and tinnitus they quickly become infuriating. The only reason they were audible over the gnashing of my teeth was their sheer volume – those with sensitive ears are strongly recommended to avoid this show, and any shows in neighbouring studios have my sympathies. It is to be hoped this, too, will be fixed in future performances.Exsomnia ends with a warning not to repeat the dreams witnessed, but I consider it my duty as a review to ignore this and issue a warning of my own; ultimately all Exsomnia has to say is that dreams can be strange, a fact anyone who has ever been to sleep already knows full well.

Since you’re here…

… we have a small favour to ask. We don't want your money to support a hack's bar bill at Abattoir, but if you have a pound or two spare, we really encourage you to support a good cause. If this review has either helped you discover a gem or avoid a turkey, consider doing some good that will really make a difference.

You can donate to the charity of your choice, but if you're looking for inspiration, there are three charities we really like.

Mama Biashara
Kate Copstick’s charity, Mama Biashara, works with the poorest and most marginalised people in Kenya. They give grants to set up small, sustainable businesses that bring financial independence and security. That five quid you spend on a large glass of House White? They can save someone’s life with that. And the money for a pair of Air Jordans? Will take four women and their fifteen children away from a man who is raping them and into a new life with a moneymaking business for Mum and happiness for the kids.
Donate to Mama Biashara now

Theatre MAD
The Make A Difference Trust fights HIV & AIDS one stage at a time. Their UK and International grant-making strategy is based on five criteria that raise awareness, educate, and provide care and support for the most vulnerable in society. A host of fundraising events, including Bucket Collections, Late Night Cabarets, West End Eurovision, West End Bares and A West End Christmas continue to raise funds for projects both in the UK and Sub-Saharan Africa.
Donate to Theatre MAD now

Acting For Others
Acting for Others provides financial and emotional support to all theatre workers in times of need through the 14 member charities. During the COVID-19 crisis Acting for Others have raised over £1.7m to support theatre workers affected by the pandemic.
Donate to Acting For Others now

The Blurb

Dreams are frightening. They make you believe things that aren't true. They won't let you escape. But terror truly dawns when you can't tell what is real. Witness an unforgettable theatrical experience, and trust us: screaming won't help. www.exsomnia.co.uk

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