FRINGE: Awake – Theatre – Queen’s Theatre – 3.5K

Awake is a duo of short plays, both looking at particular medical conditions which rob people of their minds. There is a specific focus on the impact of these illnesses on the family; those who have to watch their loved ones disappear, and who look after them through this time.

In the first, a young couple are pushed to the brink by the loss of his ability to create and retain memories. For him, every moment is his first, every experience new. For her, their days are endlessly repetitive as she tries desperately to get him to retain any small amount of information. The second, longer, play revolves around Esther, who has recently learnt that she has a condition known as Fatal Familial Insomnia – a condition which means that, until she dies, she will never sleep again. Her brother and son must try to find a way to live with one another, as the family curse kills her and they each face the uncertainty of their own futures.

The scripts capture the journey that is inescapable when a member of your family is diagnosed with such an illness; the grief, the humour, the fatigue, and the helplessness. They are generally well written, though some of the alliterative elements became a little grating. The set is simple, aesthetically pleasing and adaptable to both plays, and lighting effectively adds the appropriate mood when needed.

The performances were strong all-round, with particular kudos to Justin Batchelor who took on two very different and challenging roles. The plays are book ended and bridged by pieces of music, performed live on stage by the four actors. These are pleasant, if not inspiring, and do well to draw the audience in, enable the transition from one play to the other and conclude the show.

It seems likely that this production would benefit from a more intimate, theatre style venue, and the air-flow at the Queen’s could certainly be improved to increase audience comfort. These issues aside however, this was an enjoyable, emotionally engaging, quality piece of theatre, focusing on an interesting topic.

Kryztoff rating: 3.5K

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