AdlFringe Review: Insomnia Cat Came to Stay

by Jane

Insomnia Cat Came to Stay

Eyes still open. Brain still spinning. Body still awake.
Every night, sleep eludes this woman. Her bed doesn’t afford her the comfort it should. Instead, it is just the place she struggles, night after night, to find sleep.
Sleepless, life becomes a suspended animation. During the day she never feels as awake as she does at night, when the world has stopped and yet her brain still moves on. And on. And on.

Insomnia Cat Came to Stay is playwright Fleur Kilpatrick’s exploration of insomnia. It is her trying to make sense out of something that is so little spoken about, so little understood. The work carries us through nights and days, a never-ending cycle of wakeful restlessness, of swirling thoughts on sleep, and where it has left this woman.

Through the performance Joanne Sutton attempts to woo sleep; to trick it into coming; she fights for it, and fights against the impact of a never-ending sleeplessness. In a delightful performance, her energies rise and fall with the manipulation of time and being constantly awake.

Sarah Walker’s design traps the woman within the white sheets of her bed. Even as sleep avoids her, she must lie there, trapped, trying to make sense of it all. Hoping, just once, that the sleep will come and find her. Sutton, standing in the same position through the work has only her arms and face to communicate and reach out to her audience with.

Though this primary design set-up is simple, on top of this is built a beautifully complex dance between Kilpatrick’s text, animation by Thomas Russell, and music by Roderick Cairns. These three layers play into and on top of each other, and the animation and music highlight the deep structuring which exists in Kilpatrick’s text. As it is spoken, you can almost feel the way it would sit on the page, and underneath everything, you can truly feel the impetus for Kilpatrick to have written this work. An often ferocious energy to the text suggests the insomnia she suffered caused these words to bubble up and spill out of her with urgency.

As Sutton speaks, you can hear the structured beat and rhythm of the woman’s inner mind, as the words roll over and through Cairns’ driving composition. In Russell’s animation projected over Sutton, Peter Pan and Wendy fly through the night sky; light bulbs flicker on until they fill a cityscape of lights; eyes blink, never closing into sleep; and creeping past is insomnia cat, always present, always watching. In black and white, occasionally augmented by subtle lighting from the rig, the animation jitters with a hyperactivity of nighttime insomnia.

Danny Delhunty’s direction has the play straddling a strange divide between energy and stillness. Through text and through the integrated songs, Sutton keeps up a steady rhythm, often talking directly to her audience as she struggles through nights and their corresponding mornings. The animation and the music create great movement around this world, yet at the centre of it all Sutton stands still.

This odd energy lulls you into the show, and like this woman is trapped in her insomnia we, too, feel somewhat trapped in the theatre. Time simultaneously feels like it is going on forever and like it has stopped, as you get caught up in this world – and its familiarity. It’s a feeling of a rather beautiful hibernation.

Quiet Little Fox presents Insomnia Cat Came to Stay by Fleur Kilpatrick. Directed by Danny Delhunty, designed by Sarah Walker, animation by Thomas Russell, music composed, arranged and performed by Roderick Cairns, music recorded and mixed by Steven J Hearne. Performed by Joanne Sutton. At Tuxedo Cat for the Adelaide Fringe until Sunday 3rd March. More information and tickets.