Writer: Nathan Ellis
Director: Charlotte Fraser
Reviewer: Maryam Philpott
We all have a natural impulse for despair and the world’s problems seem most bleak when we can’t sleep. Examining a dark night of the soul, This Noise theatre company’s abstract new show No One is Coming to Save Youmakes its debut as part of the Bunker Theatre’s Breaking Out Festival, eschewing traditional drama to comment on our ominous ability to wait for bad things to happen.
A man and a woman are unable to sleep; she stares at the water glass in front of her while he mindlessly watches the TV in the house opposite. As the hours pass their minds conjure up a series of memories relating to their present circumstances, as well as fantasies of escape and happiness. With dawn approaching, their imaginings reach crisis point and they begin to notice each other’s suffering.
Insomnia in drama is a useful tool to equate stories of human exhaustion with existing socio-political norms, disrupting and amplifying the mind’s ability to separate fiction and reality. There is also a tendency to catastrophise or panic when more exhausted, reinforcing the frustrations of Nathan Ellis’s characters. Ed Norton may have fantasised an entirely separate identity in Fight Club, but here this sleeplessness manifests as layered dream-like sequences that merge scenes, visions and memories as two unrelated neighbours face the darkness alone.
A somnambulistic quality defines the piece, as the characters narrate their own experience of the night while occasionally appearing as voices or consciousness in each other’s stories. What is real is entirely open to debate as Ellis uses a film-editing-like fluidity to slip seamlessly between place and time, as though someone continually changing channel, while his language has a richness that makes the words linger in the room, oozing with meaning and vividly applied to phrases such as “a tumour of ochre blood.”
Stylish though it undoubtedly is, the deliberate jumble of No One is Coming to Save You makes it difficult to know precisely what This Noise want to say, or to fully interpret all of the show’s meaning. Although the feeling of standing on shifting sands is managed with considerable skill by director Charlotte Fraser, the overall effect is a series of great moments rather than a coherent or pointed argument on human destructiveness. Craft takes precedence over purpose.
Agatha Elwes and Rudolphe Mdlongwa are engaging performers, delivering their 65-minute duologue with wistful abandon during the character’s flights of fancy, finding plenty of humour in the observational comedy while reaching for the sense of endless anguish that runs through the show, although even choreographed movement doesn’t prevent it from becoming a bit too repetitive towards the end.
No One is Coming to Save You is badged as an experimental show and the Company have certainly earned that label, but with such a dramatic title and a concept built around the old adage that the night is darkest before the dawn, they could give a little more thought to using all their technical skill to clarify and strengthen what they want to say.
Runs until 6 July 2018 | Image: Contributed