Entering the space for Sleepless Nights I was greeted by a cold, uneasy sight. Four young girls laying on the ground in darkness, eerie music playing loudly and a man walking in circles at the back of the stage. This play is produced by Paprika Creators Unit and is playing at the Toronto Fringe Festival.
The piece is an ambitious one, taking on racism, sexism, bigotry, abuse, and gun control – all in a 45 minute time slot.
It does well with its technical elements. The lighting design was used effectively to differentiate between inner monologue, past, and present. There were several uses of lighting in conjunction with breathing which was creative and very powerful.
The soundscape was also very strong, doing well to set the tone and immerse the audience into the otherworldly nature of the show.
Unfortunately, as a whole the show just didn’t work for me. It felt like the largest problem with this show was it’s attempt to take on so many subjects at once. With so much packed into a 45-minute play things felt like they were picked up and quickly dropped. I would have much rather one or two topics be covered thoroughly, instead of having so many blurring the message.
I also didn’t connect with what felt like stylized language in the script. For the teenager characters, instead of normal speech, it felt like a spoken word poem, even when the characters were simply conversing. It had a hard formality feeling to it. Then, the principal character had a style of speech that was the complete opposite that felt like a cartoon character. The effect for me pulled me out of any sense of realism the show had built up.
Ultimately, Sleepless Nights as it stands right now is a show that seems like it’s trying to do too much in too little time, leaving it feeling lacking in focus in terms of strong message or plot. It would be interesting to see what these artists could do if they chose to focus in on one or two threads and develop them further.
- Sleepless Nights plays at The Theatre Centre’s BMO Incubator. (1115 Queen St. W.)
- Tickets are $12. The festival also offers a range of money-saving passes for serious Fringers.
- Tickets can be purchased online, by telephone (416-966-1062), from the Fringe Club at Scadding Court, and — if any remain — from the venue’s box office starting one hour before curtain.
- Be aware that Fringe performances always start exactly on time, and that latecomers are never admitted.
- Content Warnings: Realistic Violence or Gore, Sexual Content, Audience Participation, Mature Language.
- This venue is accessible.
- Friday July 7th, 01:15 pm
- Saturday July 8th, 08:30 pm
- Monday July 10th, 05:45 pm
- Wednesday July 12th, 10:00 pm
- Thursday July 13th, 06:15 pm
- Friday July 14th, 07:00 pm
- Saturday July 15th, 09:45 pm
- Sunday July 16th, 05:45 pm
Photo of Sleepless Nights cast provided by the company.