Sleeper - A Review by Hannah McGregor
Sleeper, by Moot Point Collective, is an audio play that explores love, memory, family, and music. Through the course of the 50-minute play, we hear Nic on their bus ride to London to visit a sick relative, Bea. Over the course of the journey, Nic discusses their dilemma of seeing their family, the struggles of being queer, and how these things combine to form their anxiety over the family reunion.
The first thing that hits you when listening to Sleeper is the atmosphere of the piece – a mixture of excellent sound editing and mixing creates a brilliant auditory space for the background noise of the story, with the humming of the bus engine and the panning phone vibrations feeling oddly tangible. It is a setting which really lends itself to the medium of audio; as someone who loves to stick on a podcast while travelling, walking, or just doing the dishes, I am all too aware of how important a subtle soundscape is to envelop the listener, and the tech team behind Sleeper have truly excelled in this.
The story itself, written by Joe Hunter, feels natural and well-structured, flowing seamlessly from section to section without feeling too clunky, a feat which is not easy for audio plays. With the play being largely a monologue, Hunter is able to pace the story beats in a way which, rather than make me count the seconds, had me forget about the time (which I noticed when I realised I missed my bus to work).
This is, no doubt, aided hugely by the stunning performance of Tiger Mitchell as Nic; Mitchell’s performance is heartfelt, encompassing, and at times makes you forget the script because of how natural and easily Mitchell’s emotive voice melts into the intimate script of Hunter. Drew Gill’s Alex compliments Mitchell’s performance with a slightly sarcastic yet
The direction of Abbie Craigmyle keeps the story succinct, reaching appropriate highs and lows to keep the listener involved, something that isn’t easy to do when asking an audience used to 15-second TikToks and 2-minute Instagram reels to pay attention for a solid hour. However, the production pulls it off, ending just as my attention was dwindling,
without feeling too premature.
The ending of the play was perhaps my only qualm – after spending almost 40 minutes on the bus with Nic, the sudden change in setting to the busy streets of London feels a little jarring, and honestly, I was expecting a bottled story which ended with the end of the coach journey, leaving the result of the family reunion a little ambiguous. Instead, the listener is witness to the full ending and the outcome of Nic’s anxieties which were told to us in the coach ride. While this is perhaps a more of a ‘complete’ way of ending the play, it does feel a bit incomplete – it feeling like maybe that there was nothing to worry about in the first place. This is, of course, not the reality for most queer people’s anxieties, and while it does fill my queer heart with a little happiness to see a queer story end happily, it doesn’t quite fit compared to the complex and layered build-up of Nic’s struggle that we have been so invested in over the last hour. Maybe we’re just too conditioned to see queer stories that end tragically rather than happily; but there must be a middle ground which is equally, if not more, satisfying to the majority of lived experiences.
Overall, however, Sleeper is something to behold, and a genuinely enjoyable experience to be lost in. Moot Point have created a brilliant piece of theatre here, and a really poignant end to Framework’s Spring Season.
This review was written by Hannah McGregor, as part of Framework's Theatre Writers Pilot Scheme.