The Hours Before We Wake

Sat 6th – Sun 28th August 2016

reviews

Julia O'Driscoll

at 10:43 on 9th Aug 2016

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Bristol-based Tremolo Theatre presents ‘The Hours Before We Wake’ a glimpse at what the world could be like in 2091. Ian (James D Kent) dreams of being a hero and getting the girl, Janice (Kathleen Fitzpatrick Milton). Even with his dream being uploaded onto DreamShare each day for the world to re-watch, he’s got a way to go. But then he meets Bea (Maisie Newman) who doesn’t take the Cognetix pill, still knows what CDs are, and is on a personal mission involving paper…

It’s a concept that is really well executed, and this new reality seems charmingly plausible. The underlying dark humour is subtle and consistent with the odd visual pun thrown in, and Ian is a compelling protagonist. The set is simple and effective, and as such, each item on stage is used inventively and unobtrusively to create the various settings. The aesthetic tone is clean-cut and minimal, from the costumes to the pleasant background music, evoking a similar mood and sense of beauty as the 2013 film ‘Her’. From the lighting to the music, this is an incredibly professional performance and Fitzpatrick Milton’s vocals provide a beautiful backdrop to the quieter moments on stage.

There is a sinister undertone to ‘The Hours Before We Wake’ which makes it an intriguing watch. Everyone is so reliant on their phones nowadays - so why not get them embedded into our forearms? It is this realisation of the potentials of technology which is a little unnerving, as these characters really are ‘living in the dream world’. Despite this, at times it seems that this isn't fully the case: Cake Fridays are still the pinnacle of the social calendar. This balance keeps the show developing, masterfully.

The story is a little predictable, but the performers' physicality and characterisations are of such a high standard that the show isn’t really hindered by this. The viewers are thoroughly engrossed, to the extent that when the lights went down for the final time the audience didn’t immediately respond with applause, so eager were they for Ian’s story to continue. This is a show I would thoroughly recommend, by an exciting theatre company I look forward to seeing more from.

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Ruby Gilding

at 10:53 on 9th Aug 2016

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The stage is bare except for a couple of filing cabinets and a desk. It is the familiar surroundings of an office, but adorned by quietly hypnotic music and a tangible energy in the air. This reassuringly domestic scene is soon disrupted by Tremolo Theatre’s dark narrative, in a show that labels itself as a “lo-fi sci-fi black comedy”. Set in the not-too-distant future of 2091, where technology has enabled us to control our dreams, ‘The Hours Before We Wake’ is extreme lucid dreaming explored in a society that has become unattached to real life. This is intelligent, absorbing theatre that unnerves the audience with its believability.

The advances of technology have always been met with suspicion and distrust, and in this play, a world of tech-conspiracy unravels when anti-hero Ian meets the outsider Bea. This dystopian drama is close to the bone, as the pill-popping, social media-obsessed culture portrayed could well be our own. These observations are the product of a sharply written script, which successfully combines a dark premise with flawless comedy.

As the easily manipulated Ian, James D Kent gives a commanding performance: he uses his gift for comic timing to skilfully accentuate Ian’s indecisive and delusional character. As well as being exceptionally funny, Kent’s animated physicality enables him to master the complex movements that give the show its fluency. The Bristol-based collaborative force behind the production specialises in storytelling that uses live music and intricately detailed movement. This results in a show that enthralls multiple senses, with particular credit due to Kathleen Fitzpatrick Milton’s beautifully lyrical singing.

The play shows the dangerous effects of losing the surreal quality of dreams. ‘The Hours Before We Wake’ is also an exploration of fears about safeguarding privacy in real life, as well as in online interactions. There are exceptionally funny scenes which exploit the coded language of infatuation, in a world now run by coding. On reflection, the darkness of this humour emerges from its satire of the millennials who live glued to their screens.

Tremolo Theatre have devised a show that is the dynamic collision of Spike Jonze’s ‘Her’ and Thomas Pynchon’s ‘The Crying of Lot 49’. With its slick writing and talented cast ‘The Hours Before We Wake’ is a profound performance which will be a memorable highlight for those who have the chance to watch it.

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