EFR - Reviews of Chasing Zeds

Chasing Zeds

Mon 11th – Thu 21st August 2014

reviews

Jessica McKay

at 20:09 on 19th Aug 2014

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Catching Zeds was a play about sleep and wakefulness. Although it didn’t quite send me to the land of nod, it equally did nothing to capture my attention.

The writer of Catching Zeds seemed to be alien to the concept of understatement; they took the ‘catching zeds’ pun and ran five million miles with it. The play began with five actors dressed in pyjamas with painted black eye-bags writhing to - yep, you’ve guessed it - Faithless’ ‘I Can’t Get No Sleep (Insomnia)’.

Each actor then told their own sleep-related story. The first three were predictable and same-y; a tired primary-aged child, a tired teenager, a tired student. At this point I was exhausted from hearing the word tired used so often.

Although her character - an insomniac mother - was nothing special, the fourth storyteller Connie Lane shone. She was far more eloquent and expressive than her fellow actors, and actually managed to generate an emotional tug on the audience's heartstrings.

From this highpoint, Catching Zeds sunk back into banality. The last character - an old man who’d recently lost his wife - was completely underdeveloped. If the writer had so little to say about the ‘old man’ it would arguably have been better to cut out his piece entirely. He came across as an afterthought.

While the five stories were told, the figure of Insomnia, played by Alexandra Karavia, hovered on the stage dressed in black. Karavia never really engaged with the audience or other actors. I suppose she was only meant to be a ‘motif’ or ‘metaphor’ for insomnia’s eternal presence. Chasing Zed's target market is grown adults not school children. We know insomnia is an unshakeable condition without it being spelled out: Karavia was totally superfluous.

Throughout the play, the cast used dance and movement to illustrate the throes of insomnia. Aside from Karavia, none of them seemed to have much skill in the art. It’s also hard to take anyone in pyjamas seriously, therefore the dances came across as more farcical than moving.

A groundbreaking insight into the life of the insomniac Catching Zeds is not, but at the same time there’s nothing especially repellent about it. An average production some Fringe-goers might enjoy.

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Kate Wilkinson

at 20:39 on 19th Aug 2014

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From Fight Club to Sherlock Holmes, the theme of insomnia has provided an interesting psychological detail to many tales. Rather than portraying the illness as one part of a complex characterisation, Zed theatre places insomnia centre stage in their piece of physical theatre. They certainly give a good sense of what it is like to suffer insomnia; the tedious repetition of banal thoughts, the stress involved in trying to maintain a functional life, and the despair that comes when morning finally arrives. Unfortunately it doesn’t take long for them to run out of things to say.

We are introduced to five insomniacs who tell their tale in turn. The final cast member is a personification of insomnia itself, complete with dark eye make-up and an evil expression. I feel this to be a rather laboured metaphor, especially given that insomnia is defined negatively as a lack or deficiency. Had they used a character to represent sleep and had her frustratingly running away the whole time, it would have made more sense to me despite being just as simplistic.

We begin with a child, played endearingly by Joanna Morley, who wishes she could dream. The cast enact a child-like fantasy dream sequence strongly evocative of Disney and accompanied by a cheesy soundtrack. Although the cast are not classically trained dancers, the routine is well-rehearsed and this initial vignette is the most engaging of the five.

As the piece progresses, the actors become more and more static on stage. Sympathy for each plight against insomnia ebbs as monologues drag for too long and the dance-like movements lack purpose. The final scene simply involves the phrase “I accept that I have insomnia and I am unable to sleep” which is mournfully intoned by each character. What is evidently an attempt to create a poignant ending is really just banal.

Unfortunately Zed Theatre are guilty of some of the most irritating GCSE mistakes; clichéd language, over-acting, and contrived dramatic techniques. The rare moment of promising acting was not enough to raise the show out of its comatose dramatic state. I would only recommend this show to insomniacs. You may be cured.

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