Sleepwalkers

Opening with an audio recording of various real-life political statements – given by both normal citizens and political leaders – Sleepwalkers quickly registers its interest in populism. This is the central concern of the play, a new piece of writing from Think Twice Theatre. Moving between two cafes and two timeframes, 1929 Berlin and 2020 Swindon, the action charts the gradual rise of fascism in Germany and a dystopian equivalent in England, an England isolated from the European community (which includes a newly-independent Scotland). Both storylines focus on struggling cafes run by normal people – who begin the play without extreme views – during periods of immense economic pressure, and explore what motivates entire communities to turn to intolerant extremism.

Insidious and unnerving

Sleepwalkers' script offers a sensitive, well-judged commentary on populism as it manifests in overlooked groups of people (while avoiding the classic liberal mistake of patronising the working classes). The interwoven plotlines help structure this idea, with each switch to the other story allowing for weeks and months to have passed by the time we return. These moves in plot are marked by simple but effective costume changes, invariably worked well into the choreography. However, though the premise and general execution of the play is strong, the script itself does need some more work. Dialogue is often flat and stilted, which reduces engagement in the complex and ever-shifting relationship dynamics.

Performing with high energy throughout, the three actors are accomplished and bring distinct personalities to the production. What they all have in common, however, is that they inhabit their characters far better at moments of stress. Scenes in which the trio are relaxed and happy do not feel nearly so competent as when they are bearing the weight of hardship, when their interpersonal relations are fraying – it is here that Alex Britt, Cara Withers and Flora Thomson come alive.

Insidious and unnerving, the playoffers a stark warning for potential sleepwalkers in the volatile present.

Reviews by Sam Fulton

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Performances

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The Blurb

When your fears are ignored by those in charge and your very existence is threatened by circumstances you can't control, will you do what's right or what feels safe? Or will you drown out everything with music and wine and dance to the tunes of chaos? Set in 1929 Germany and 2020 England, Sleepwalkers interweaves stories of cafes, jazz and demagogues to explore what it means to be a family, a community and a nation. Who will take the reigns when the demands and insecurities of entire social groups go unheard?

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