Insomnia Cat Came To Stay – stunning and vibrantly funny

Just about everyone at some point in their lives will stare at the ceiling in defeat, wondering why sleep eludes them, and then suffer for it the next day.

Insomnia. Image supplied

Playwright Fleur Kilpatrick’s Insomnia Cat Came To Stay takes this bizarre phenomenon and examines it in a way that is cleverly simple and delicately magical.

The performance is a monologue that weaves through a woman’s chaotic, sleep-deprived life as she fails to fall asleep for more than three successive nights. The concept is simple and discusses something that most of us take for granted. By making use of everyday experiences and how we deal with our problems while we sleep, the play is delivered to the audience in personal and intimate manner that everyone can relate to.

Joanne Sutton is absolutely extraordinary. The lone performer makes use of her full vocal range, with dialogue punctuated by heartfelt songs and thoughtful, often witty, pauses. The dialogue itself travels in a sort of routine, from absent-minded trains of thought through to manic, sleep-deprived rants. Sutton’s projection fills the entire space, making it seem larger than it is in reality.

One particularly memorable moment is when Sutton was incorporated into the set design (Sarah Walker). Behind her is a large screen where Thomas Russell’s animation plays like a stop-motion kaleidoscope, illustrating the dialogue. On either side are stark, white curtains that melt into Sutton’s dress to give the appearance she is lying in bed while standing upright.

Alone on the stage and constrained to a single standing position in a single spot for the entirety of the performance, Sutton has only a handful of tools at her disposal. While the frequent and whimsical background animation is enough movement to keep the audience interested, the primary focus is on the single performer with her powerful voice, energetic hand-gestures and hysterical expressions.

Danny Delahunty has directed every technical element to be close to perfection. Everything is in harmony within the performance, such as the imaginative lighting design with its spotlights and abrupt blackouts and the composition and mixing of atmospheric music (Roderick Cairns and Steven J. Hearne). With all the pieces effectively fitting together, the performance fluidly transitions from each restless thought to another.

The only words for Fleur Kilpatrick’s Insomnia Cat Came To Stay are beautifully artistic and poetic. Joanne Sutton is positively brilliant in the role. Even for those of us not plagued by sleepless nights, the performance is strongly evocative through its delicate exploration of insomnia. The show is nothing short of stunning and vibrantly funny.

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