No Plain Jane

Theatre reviews and musings (mostly) from Adelaide

Tag: Sarah Walker

AdlFringe Review: Insomnia Cat Came to Stay

Insomnia Cat Came to Stay

12:14am.
3:47am.
6:05am.
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.

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Melbourne Fringe Review: Choir Girl

Choir politics, it seems, are a very big deal.

Which choir you’re in; who they accept and who they reject; their history; their venue; their accompanist; what section of the choir you are in; what food you bring; how much you rehearse; who gives whom a carpool.

Anything I’ve missed? Dozens of things, I’m sure.

Sarah Collins’ Choir Girl is a somewhat befuddling look into the world and the politics of choirs, of being an outsider, and of finding spaces for the lonely. A one-woman show, it is at its core, a small and simple story about Susan (alto) joining a new prestigious choir two bus trips away, while struggling to fit in amongst the other women of the choir and desperately fantasising about the accompanist.

This seemingly simple, one-woman show, though, is far from small. Joining Collins on the small stage in the Lithuanian Club Ballroom is an ensemble of fifteen women making up the choir: making this a small story epically told.

Collins’ Susan is earnest and heartwarming in all the right ways, while also being dark and incredulously manipulative. Incredibly dorkily invested in choir, slightly socially awkward, judgmental, and slightly lacking in empathy and social awareness, Collins nonetheless manages to pull of a character that, if we’re not exactly rooting for her, we’re still in some way cheering her on. This choral world – which to me is entirely foreign – becomes a refuge for the lonely Susan: a place where she can blend perfectly in as a good choir girl should, but you get the idea she feels she is so good at blending in she is probably the best at blending in, and so she is probably the best in all circumstances.

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