Analogue are a company who have won considerable acclaim over the past few years. I saw their show Stowaway, a thought-provoking piece about illegal immigration, earlier this year, and returned to Shoreditch Town Hall to see their new work Sleepless.
Sleepless was inspired by the real-life story of a family cursed with a genetic disease, one which causes those affected to suffer from being unable to sleep until they die. It also draws from the science and history surrounding the “mad cow disease” or vCJD outbreak of the 1990s.
The story is told in Analogue’s usual style, with past and present events mingled so that the audience members can gradually piece the story together. It’s done with clarity, though, so it’s not hard to work out what’s going on so long as you pay attention.
Cosima is an intelligent woman working for an art gallery and expecting her first child with her partner. When she receives the news that her mother has died in what appears to be a suicide, she begins to investigate her past. She manages this with the help of a doctor, kicked out of his job for suggesting a link between vCJD and contaminated beef.
Cosima’s story is a very human one, but it is backed by scientific research and Analogue have created a compelling drama which raises questions about the level of funding available for research into particular diseases. What happens to you if you suffer from a rare though devastating genetic disease for which no research funding is available?
The small cast play a number of roles between them, switching between members of Cosima’s Italian family, journalists, doctors, and fellow scientists. The set is intriguing too, with clever cinematic effects, projections and some rather eerie cows’ heads.
A thought-provoking and gripping production, Sleepless is definitely one I would recommend.