Stories to Tell in the Middle of the Night

★★★★
theatre review | Read in About 2 minutes
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Stories to Tell 7 Credit Graeme Braidwood
Published 20 Aug 2016

Very much a mood piece, this unassuming offering from writer/performer Francesca Millican-Slater is successful partly due to its morning timeslot. Most of today's audience are visibly groggy and, if we put our coffees down for long enough, it's easy to imagine ourselves gathered in the middle of the night, tuning in to a celestial radio broadcast. Our host has the calming sing-song tones expected in such a context, while a succession of diverse observational stories lend her narration an appropriately omnipotent feel.

These seemingly unrelated tales amount to a sprawling exploration of sleeplessness and the various anxieties that can fall upon us during bouts of insomnia. Although most are set during the day, Millican-Slater ably captures the contemplative solitude of the early hours. She achieves this partly in thanks to a keen eye for detail and a willingness to focus on the mundane. Her characters inhabit supermarkets, pie factories and call centres, environments with so little to stimulate their visitors that a certain amount of introspection is to be expected. Though each recognises their plight, they're given little room to act on any epiphanies they may experience. These people exist on treadmills from which they can't afford to get off. Whenever the grimness of reality becomes too pronounced, their only hope is that they can fall back asleep and resume sleepwalking through it.