Night Sweats @ Summer Nights at The Blue Room Theatre (for Fringe)
Thursday, February 8, 2018
Night Sweats is not for the faint-hearted. Written and performed by Timothy Green, it is a one-hour journey into the workings of a person’s brain. But Green’s brain is not just any normal brain – it is one that that overthinks and over-analyses every crevice of itself. The result? An ambitious, personal, and wildly relevant piece of theatre that will have the viewer examining one’s place and condition.
Insomnia is often thought to be connected to an overactive and complex mind, and this is perfectly showcased in Night Sweats, as Green demonstrates the numbing loneliness of insomnia, the crazy energy kicks you experience in the middle of the night, and the never-ending quest to stop your mind from asking the big question: “when will I go to sleep?”
Green introduces Tilda Swinton as the personification of insomnia, helping to make the idea of sleeplessness tangible. Swinton, who takes form as a mask and a blonde wig, pops up throughout the show, always uninvited, always unwelcome, and always at the most awkward of times, just like insomnia tends to do.
Green does an excellent job of detailing the nuances of an overactive imagination that never stops questioning, pushing and expanding. This is done brilliantly with the help of Director Hayden Wilson, Stage Manager Sally Davies and Designer Steve Berrick, who turn the stage into a space of darkness, putting sharp focus onto a mind that just won’t stop. A completely pitch-black room, with one singular ring light on Green’s face, sets the tone for the internal examination that occurs. The simple but effective set-up is like a breath of fresh air and focuses the audience’s attention brilliantly.
The opening scene in particular is extremely clever, using this ring light on Green’s hand as he mimics playing the chords of Deep Purple’s Smoke on the Water. It’s as good an opening scene as you are likely to see, and it also nicely alludes to the intricacies of the human condition and the slightly disjointed cogs of the brain. The opening scene (and many after it) receive well-earned laughs, cheers of appreciation and broad smiles from the crowd.
As well as the use of light, Green’s movement and expression are artfully and generously carried out, keeping the audience engaged for the entirety of the show. A couple of hilarious boxing scenes in particular highlight Green’s wonderful sense of physicality.
These boxing scenes, and the digressions into random facts and recollections, portray the way humans throw themselves into things to help mask or distract themselves from what is bubbling underneath the surface; the traumatic experiences, the niggling insecurities, the need to self-audit.
In Night Sweats, Green tackles very dark undertones with humour, absurdity, and poignant self-reflective sadness and anguish. It’s this mixture of tools which give the play such texture, but which at times do make it feel like an assault on the senses– especially with the constant and rapid changes in energy and narrative.
Another factor that lets the play down is the incessant ramblings, which is obviously a nod to the 3am cobwebs of one’s thoughts, but which in the stark daylight of theatre can be hard to follow, a little confusing, and at times, tedious. Perhaps some more rigorous vetting in the writing process and dialogue could have seen Night Sweats become a sharper, and in turn, more impactful piece of theatre.
Nonetheless, it is an insightful, hugely original and thought-provoking show that will not disappoint those who are interested in scratching under the surface of society’s blankets.