Director: John-Michael MacDonald
Reviewer: Stephen Bates
In a world where the affluent look for every opportunity to enhance the quality of their busy lives, therapists and personal trainers have become commonplace, so why not employ the services of someone who can relieve the stress caused by bad dreams? Enter the Nightmare Dreamer, a man who can lie beside his patients, experience their nightmares for them and remove them forever. Such is the starting premise for this bizarre and intriguing piece of physical theatre which has been devised for the Tattooed Potato company by director John-Michael MacDonald and his cast of seven actors.
With only a very loose narrative thread to hold it together and minimal dialogue, the production relies almost entirely on movement and physical interpretation by the performers. Nightmares involving forbidden fruit, a headless screaming baby, removed intestines, a faceless monster, a long-dead lover and a writhing serpent are brought starkly to life. Playing the Dreamer, Txema Perez is suitably sinister and mysterious, while the other six performers and co-devisers play multiple rôles, displaying remarkable athleticism, agility and conviction. They are: Gerard Alvarez, Leonor Lemee, Fleur Poad, Louise van der Post, Teo Ghil and James Riccetto; all are to be congratulated.
As the performance area is usually bare with very few props, strong reliance is placed on colours to convey moods and themes – soft blue for calm sleep, vivid red for nightmares – and the performers are dressed mainly in black to contrast with the white backdrops. The impact of colours is heightened by superb lighting, designed by Karl Oskar Sordal and the moods are enhanced further by atmospheric music and sound effects by Jon McLeod.
This production is far more than just a visual horror show, it also asks relevant and thought-provoking questions, as it delves into the recesses of the mind and explores the dividing lines between nightmares, dreams and reality. One young woman restores works of art by profession and, having had her nightmares taken from her, she draws the analogy of removing layer after layer from a painting to find that there is just blank canvass left; she has realised that the nightmares were part of her being and that, without them, she is no longer herself. And then, in a thrilling sequence in which six people are made to seem like 600, the Dreamer sits on a park bench as passers-by rush all around him, talking on their mobile phones, oblivious of him and of each other; he sees that the real world is the greatest of all nightmares.
Imaginative, exciting and intelligent in equal measures, The Nightmare Dreamer is engrossing from the very beginning and does not loosen its grip throughout its 70 minute running time.