Reviews are under the cut for length, even though it's mostly excerpts:
Reviews of Kate Hewlett’s new play DON’T WAKE ME
Don't Wake Me
BY Meghan Harrison January 03, 2008 15:01
While sometimes a bit bloodless for a show whose main character wakes up with bleeding eye sockets, UnSpun Theatre’s surreal but intellectual approach mostly pays off in this moody — and often very funny— psychological mystery.
James (Christopher Stanton) is blinded after a vicious attack he can’t remember, but his vivid dreams seem to lead him closer to the lost memory. In waking life, his condition worsens while his refusal to adapt frustrates his care worker Alice (Kate Hewlett) and estranged best friend Hammer (John Cleland).
The use of stark light and shadow, along with the guide wires James strings across his apartment, allows the set to gracefully serve both storylines. So do Cleland and Hewlett, who play several roles each in the film noir-styled dreamworld that James enters. Though they’re often vaguely shaded stereotypes, each character has enough personality to be compelling, with Cleland’s hard-bitten newspaper editor one of the highlights. The writers have an excellent collective ear for 1930s detective story patter and there’s no shortage of great one-liners. Director Chris Hanratty carries the noir aesthetic into the staging of the dream scenes, which are beautifully composed and perfectly paced.
There’s also just enough misdirection to lend a satisfying level of confusion (though Hewlett gets saddled with a poor monologue about humans as “forgetting machines” in the process), and just enough clues to satisfy the attentive with a plausible solution. Stanton does an admirable job in a difficult, physical role that requires him to switch back and forth between being blind and sighted; that he’s such an imposing presence even while theoretically helpless is a constant source of tension. And while the snappy dialogue is a pleasure, Don’t Wake Me’s sly manipulation of the audience’s sympathy for the main character is what you’ll remember when the lights come up.
Cast: John Cleland, Kate Hewlett and Christopher Stanton
Dramaturge: Mike McPhaden
Assistant Director: Brendan Gall
Play-Drama / General Audience
Running time: 75 Minutes
Factory Theatre Mainspace
Wed, January 2 - 7:15 pm
Fri, January 4 - 9:00 pm
Sat, January 5 - 3:45 pm
Sun, January 6 - 9:15 pm
Tue, January 8 - 7:00 pm
Thu, January 10 - 5:00 pm
Fri, January 11 - 7:00 pm
Sat, January 12 - 5:15 pm
Sun, January 13 - 9:00 pm
For advance online ticket sales click here.
The projects range from last year's giant hit, Bash'd! a rapping exploration of homophobia which I called "Brilliant, a show you don't dare miss," to A Quiet Place, Brendan Gall's award-winning study of the deadly mind games that people play with each other.
At a point in the arts calendar when theatre festivals are generally at a minimum, Next Stage will try to serve up some quality drama alongside the bottles of brew (in a heated tent, of course). Last summer's Fringe hit Conservatives in Love returns. There's also A Quiet Place by Brendan Gall, a co-writer of Don't Wake Me whom MacIntosh calls a "hot, up-and-coming indie artist." For those interested in seeing how a play develops over time, Jason Maghanoy's The Corner was work-shopped in last May's CrossCurrents Festival.
(perhaps the biggest review)
Quiet Place, part of the innaugural Next Stage Theatre Festival, is about two guys in a room. They don't know why they're there, they don't remember anything about their previous lives, and have no idea how to get out. If this sounds a bit like Beckett, it's because it is. The whole 'Waiting For Godot' oeuvre holds a particular fascination for playwright Brendan Gall (his upcoming Tarragon Show, Alias Godot, is ample testimony). But while Gall is happy to explore the crushing existentialism of Beckett's most famous creation, his play never seems derivative or trite. Through his characters, Gall alternately examines how we perceive reality, the tortured interdependencies of human relationships, and the lack of inherent purpose to existence. This is heavy stuff. So heavy, in fact, the various philosophical undercurrents threaten to overwhelm the narrative of the play. The themes are powerful and demand attention, causing the show to lurch towards a whole series of possible endings. And ultimately, the ending we get it a little unsatisfying. This is the fault of Gall's ambition, not any serious deficiencies he has a playwright. Indeed, his excellent ear for dialogue and ability to create both hilarious and touching moments helps keep his play from disappearing down the rabbit hole of solipsism.
A QUIET PLACE
Produced by Single Threat Productions
Playwright Brendan Gall's homage to Samuel Beckett and Waiting For Godot starts out strong, with James Cade and Christopher Stanton making the most of two characters who have absolutely no idea how they ended up trapped in a room with no door.
But it runs down pretty quickly, thanks as much to a script that fails to supply the requisite danger as to director Geoffrey Pounsett's decision to leave his audience too long in the dark in the production's interminable black-outs.