Pulse Fringe: Insomnobabble

The Big Wow Theatre's look at our world through the prism of an insomniac's eyes is absolutely brilliant. I haven't a seen better, more wonderfully conceived and performed piece of anarchic comedy theatre in years.

Insomnobabble, Sir John Mills Theatre, Ipswich, Pulse Fringe Festival June 7

The Big Wow Theatre's look at our world through the prism of an insomniac's eyes is absolutely brilliant. I haven't a seen better, more wonderfully conceived and performed piece of anarchic comedy theatre in years.

We follow a tormented journey at the edge of sleep starvation. Mark Rutter plays Keith, the ordinary guy who just can't nod off. From the moment he first twitches, fruitlessly tossing and turning and staring goggle-eyed, you know you're in for a quality night's theatre. Within seconds the show's going at ninety miles an hour and stepping up in pace.

It's not hard to understand why he can't sleep. He's alone, lives in a scruffy flat, and works in a demoralising office where everyone there is nameless, a caricature or talks in cliché. The boss barks out acronyms, like POPASAP - 'piece of paper as soon as possible'.


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Everyone is drawn like a character from Alice in Wonderland. The hypnotherapist thinks he's curing Keith from smoking and the policeman to whom Kevin reports his stolen wallet says he's too busy fighting the war on terrapins.

Keith is in state of breakdown. His only hope is Rose, a girl he meets and falls in love with. However by this time, in his sleep-starved daze, Keith can't distinguish between dream and reality. Perhaps she just exists in his mind.

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The other part of the performing duo is Tim Lynskey. Note the name. This young man is in the John Cleese class. He plays everybody else in the piece, which, apparently, is 27 characters. This includes the policeman, everyone in the office, the hypnotherapist and, amazingly, everyone attending an insomniac's self-help group. There he plays half a dozen characters at once changing between them in the split of a second. He even has two of them fighting each other.

This is scintillating theatre, very physical, with lots of fast but superbly disciplined mime and with very clever writing. The invention is staggering as between them they get inside our heads to show us the nightmare terrors that gnaw at the troubled.

Mark Rutter, too, is wonderful, his face contorting itself with fear and confusion as the alarm keeps going off in his head and he leaps into a superbly breakneck morning ablution sequence.

I cannot praise this show highly enough. If you get chance to see it, take it.

Ivan Howlett

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