La Mama, Ellen Stewart Theatre, 66 E. 4th St, NYC, USA

19/03/2015 - 22/03/2015

The Print Factory, 35 Kings St, Newtown -, Wellington

12/07/2008 - 12/07/2008

The Print Factory, 35 King Street, Newtown, Wellington

29/01/2008 - 10/02/2008

Auckland Town Hall, Auckland

07/03/2009 - 10/03/2009

Auckland Festival 2009

New Zealand Performance Festival New York

Production Details

In an exciting collaboration between art and science, Sleep/Wake blends dance, design, performance art, internet, AV and theatre to create a unique, live-art experience – the story of an awakening and the mechanics of the sleeping brain and body.

Bringing together the knowledge and creativity of world-renowned sleep expert Professor Philippa Gander of the Massey University Sleep/Wake Research Centre and director/designer Sam Trubridge (The Restaurant of Many Orders – UK, NZ, Italy, Czech Republic), Sleep/Wake is a world first performance not to be missed.
Sleep/Wake begins with a performer asleep on stage. Then the few minutes that it takes our bodies to go from sleeping to waking are expanded to explore physical, political and metaphoric awakenings.

Says director Sam Trubridge: “When we sleep, we don’t perform.  But the moment we wake up, we enter the world again.  We start to put on our costumes, our make-up, building ourselves up until we’re ready to face the world – and ready to take the stage.”

Through the languages of dance, design and science a unique journey begins: into the unknown territory of sleep, where we spend one third of our lives . . .

Featuring international artists Lizzie Barker and Ella Robson Guilfoyle (UK), and New Zealand talent Maria Dabrowska (Heavenly Burlesque, Ink), Claire Middleton and James Conway-Law.

31 January – 10 February, 8pm (Thurs-Sun Only)
The Print Factory, 35 King Street, Newtown, Wellington
Bookings: Ticketek 04 384 3840 or

New Zealand Performance Festival New York 2015

FESTIVAL HIGHLIGHT: An award-winning art science performance with stunning visuals by director/designer Sam Trubridge.

La MaMa Experimental Theatre Club
Ellen Stewart Theatre
March 19-21 at 8pm & 22 at 4pm


Auckland Festival Season 2009

The Orator:  Jamie Burgess
The Sleeper:  Elise Chan
Dancer/choreographer:  Elizabeth Barker
Dancer/choreographer:  Maria Dabrowska
Dancer/choreographer:  Josh Rutter
Choreographic consultant/ performer:  Kristian Larsen
The Bear:  Lydia Zanetti
Eurydice:  Ella Robson-Guillfoyle
The Apneist:  William Trubridge

Producer:  Eleanor Bishop
Production Manager:  Glenn Ashworth
Composer / sound designer:  Bevan Smith
Lighting designer:  Marcus McShane
A/V operator:  Rowan Pierce
Costume assistant:  Hermione Flynn
Architectural drafting:  Janine Morris
Digital Clock:              Craig Johnson & Caleb Jones
Vocal Coach:  Jade Valour

Wellington Season 2008

The Sleeper: Claire Middleton
The Orator: James Conway-Law
Choreography & Dance: Maria Dabrowska & Elizabeth Barker
Eurydice: Ella Robson Guilfoyle
Boris the Bear: Dan Williams
Apneist: William Trubridge 
Lighting Design: Marcus McShane
Sound Design: Bevan Smith 

Producer: Clare Needham
Production Manager: Anna Drakeford
Publicity: Brianne Kerr

AV Operator: Rowan Pierce
Sound Operator: Craig Sengelow
Sleep Technicians: Dee Muller, Karyn O'Keefe, Dr Leigh Signal
Stagehands: Ian Hammond & Richard Larsen

Set Drafting & Construction: Janine Morris
Set Construction: Iain Cooper & John Hodgkins
Set Construction Assistant; Andre Anderson
Costume Design Assistant: Hermione Flynn
Costume Construction: Rebekkah Campbell
Designer/Maker of Boris the Bear: Ben Pearce
Vocal Coaching: Ruth Armishaw & Jade Valour
Hydrocinematography: Graham Mackereth
Coffin designed by David Trubridge

Theatre , Performance installation ,

1hr 10mins (no interval)

Poetic, skillful and compelling

Review by Alison Walls 25th Mar 2015

Difficult to pin down as a theatre piece, Sleep/Wake seems closer to visual — or rather sensory – art, but it is nothing if not atmospheric. The collaboration with Philippa Gander of the Sleep/Wake Research Centre at Massey University sleep is primarily apparent in the introductory section where the Orator (Arthur Meek) explains how sleep patterns are monitored and what research has revealed thus far.

We then move into what seems to be the dream state of the Sleeper (Debbie Fish), although who is dreaming what and/or whom into existence comes into the question in the final twist, which perhaps gives the piece something closer to a conventional arc, but is also perhaps unnecessary in a production where the greatest strength lies in a free exploration of image, sound, and atmosphere.

Sam Trubridge and choreographic cohort Jack Gray (with original choreography by Maria Dabrowska and Lizzie Barker) understand the magic of repetition — of mirrored images that are themselves repeated, then varied, then again repeated. When the Sleeper first moves into her apparent dreamscape, she is multiplied; one bed and one sleeper become three beds and three sleepers whose commonplace nighttime stretches and motions extend into a brilliant dance. The sleepers are initially confined to their beds and their movements — here and throughout the piece — maintain the essence of a sleeper’s motions while extending it into the realm of the balletic.

Dancers Amelia Taverner and Elise Chan give compelling and committed performances, and the sheer trust and coordinated collaboration between the two and the remarkable Fish, as they violently manipulate her limp body on the bed, is both terrifying and admirable.

There is often a danger in dance of unnecessarily sexualising the dancers’ bodies, especially when those dancers are women costumed in white slips and, in one scene here, drenching themselves as they dance through the pool of water created by an overflowing sink. Gray’s performance coaching manages, however, to completely steer clear of this pitfal without losing sight of the evident beauty of the dancers.

The water dance is one of several points where Sleep/Wake verges on becoming ample fodder for parody and yet it is always offset by welcome and judicious touches of comedy and absurdity — mainly provided by a large bear (who, in a nicely metatheatrical touch, is first discovered sweeping the stage, as the set wall collapses, reminiscent of a stage hand or stage manager accidentally caught on stage). 

The collapsing — and slowly raised, lowered, raised again — stage wall is just one of several engaging visual elements of the piece, but sound and sensation also come into play. Gareth Hobbs has created a nuanced soundscape that contributes vitally to the ambience. He manipulates the intensity of the moment, working skillfully with gentle rumbles, repeated musical motifs, deliberate electronic buzz and disconnect, as well as sheer volume. This last combines with a blinding light and sonically vibrating seats in a moment of sensory overload repeated several times that lends Sleep/Wake its truly experiential nature. 

Not all elements are so successful. At times, one cannot help but question the depth of the production beyond its sensory interest. The connection to what we know/don’t know about sleep ends up feeling rather cursory. I also want a greater vocal strength and variety from Meek as the Orator. As a mythic incarnation his rather stylized movement, blank gaze and tone work reasonably well, but elsewhere it produces a seemingly insincere and disconnected tour-guide through this exploration of sleep. In the last few moments, the persona drops and Meek achieves a more engaging (however mundane) naturalness. 

These few quibbles aside, Sleep/Wake demonstrates the collaborative ingenuity of the Playground Collective NZ. The show is best appreciated as performance art; considered as a poetic combination of live performance and sensory stimulation it is skillful and compelling.


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Journey into dream universe fuses science with myths

Review by Raewyn Whyte 10th Mar 2009

Sleeping, waking and dreaming are the stuff of performance in the ambitious hybrid production Sleep/Wake currently running in The Great Hall. Director/designer Sam Trubridge and his cast have collaborated with, Professor Philippa Gander and the Massey University Sleep/Wake Research Centre to develop the show…

The performance presents a plethora of information about sleep, ranging from the purely scientific through the mythological to personal narrative. The text is formally delivered by an imperious Orator (Jamie Burgess) dressed like a Minoan priestess minus the snake, and in parallel with the text, the cast variously inhabit the key stages of sleeping, dreaming and waking. Video sequences and live feed splash across the walls, and a moody and at times threatening sound score (Bevan Smith) enlivens events. [More]


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Highly original, multilayered, outstandingly executed

Review by Natalie Dowd 08th Mar 2009

 "Without sleep there would be no new beginnings in our lives."

The award winning Sleep/Wake is a collaborative effort by the Sleep Research centre at Massey University and The Playground (NZ Ltd).Originally performed as part of the Wellington Fringe festival in 2008 extra support and funding has been given to enable its showing at this Auckland festival.

Philippa Gander (Sleep scientist) and Sam Trubridge Director/Designer) with his team have created an installation piece where Science meets design meets dance in a most original and evocative way, exploring the realm into which we all delve each time we  sleep. As the programme explains, Gander’s research focuses on the circadian biological clock that governs brain and body functions through each 24 hour cycle, and in particular has focused on the consequences of disruptions to the natural rhythms that occur through the choices we make in modern life.

As we are lead into the darkened shell that the Town Hall has become I am instantly struck and captivated by the solitary figure of a man whose command of stillness is so consummate my theatre partner asks me, "Is he real?" 

In the dim light above the block seating I am able to read that the man is Jamie Burgess, The Orator. 

The audience is lulled from the start by the sound of somnolent breathing from the form lying in the bed wired with a monitoring contraption. Through the door frame those of us in the centre of the seating can view Burgess in his long satin bodice and flowing skirt from the back, an elegant snake-like creature crossed with an Egyptian hieroglyph.

Jamie Burgess as the orator is a commanding performer, poetry adding to the brilliant articulation explaining the workings of our brain as we fall asleep. All the while behind him the five electrical impulses cast their elegant, rather beautiful patterns across set and chest. 

The frenetic pace of modern life and the consequences it has on our circadian rhythms are graphically and at times humorously illustrated as The Orator calls numbers between 1 and 24, dictating the movements of the Sleeper, Elise Chan.  As the numbers change and speed up, her activities of daily life become chaotic and the sensory overload is evident.

As part one comes to a close The Orator tells us that memory and logic are suppressed and the limbic system creates intense sensation. The door opens to the pre dream phase and it is the first of many inventive changes that occur to the set.

Bevan Smith’s soundscape begins, making me feel like I’m inside a pulsating engine as the rumbling reverberates through my body and the set moves revealing the lithe forms of dancers Elizabeth Barker and Maria Dubrowska.

The dance duet that ensues in unison is languid, sustained, and as the choreographic sequence is developed, falls and curls are punctuated with the odd sudden jerk conveying how beautifully out of control the body becomes as sleep creeps lusciously and the dreaming begins.

We are constantly reminded of the zany and absurd within a dream as humour is injected into the piece through the appearance of The Bear and other off-beat and storybook creatures manipulating the set and spinning the dancers on the beds within an inch of their lives. The interplay between the characters and elements is very fluid and overall I find the piece well paced in its reflection of the varying stages, mysteries and surprises of sleep.

The move into Greek mythology is unexpected, and there are some clever surprises. In Orator/Orpheus’s grief at losing Euridyce, the shedding of his costume which becomes her strapless dress symbolising her departure back into the underworld is an unexpected and most poignant moment.  His song of mourning into the sink both accompanied and a capella and the water dripping and overflowing  appears to symbolise a river of tears, filling the space with water.

The lighting design by Marcus McShane transforms the cavern and set throughout, creating striking effects from the elegant casting of shadows, and minimal red torchlight transforming a hand into a flame, to the sudden crashing on and off of the house lights.

When the dream becomes a nightmare and the darker side of the unconscious emerges in sleep the visual and textural feast continues, overtaking the senses and mind as the dancers embark on a stunning succession of grotesque shapes and limbs, flying around the set awash with water from the overflowing sink.

The forceful appearance of Josh Rutter is both a surprise and a pleasure to watch, his dynamism adding to wet and wild choreography, cacophony of sound and sensual cloud of feathers.

Humour juxtaposing horror, quirky tapping, and a series of seemingly improvised movement by Kristian Larsen on the mezzanine makes excellent and creative use of the space. It’s a shame that some audience members would have been deprived of all the action, particularly the dancers on the floor upstage. I want to see everything and can’t, but on reflection, this is exactly what happens within a dream space loaded with action. The enthralling scene with all elements combined builds and briefly assaults the senses but is contained before it becomes overwhelming.

In the subsequent Skype call, the words are not always clear, and I lose some meaning and part of the thread and wonder what pivotal links to the mythological episode I have just missed.  My theatre partner suggests pithily that they use broadband rather than dial up.

In the final scene, we are left with a blissful image in phosphorescent particles that signal a resolution, reminiscent of the seductive security of deep sleep.

As the houselights come on I feel wakened as if from a dreamlike state that comes from being drawn into another dimension so brilliantly. The vivid images and thought-provoking moments remind me of the wonderment and sometimes bewildered feeling that one often has when waking.  I try to hold on and relive the dream and make sense of it all as I walk through what now looks like the remains of a giant pillow fight. 

It is not surprising Sleep/Wake has been supported and brought into wider view.  It is highly original, multilayered and outstandingly executed.  Don’t be caught sleeping. This clever work that is perfectly in the spirit of festival culture is not to be missed.


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Challenging, experimental, exciting

Review by Helen Sims 04th Feb 2008

Sleep/Wake is an intriguing blend of science and performance. It is the product of collaboration between the Massey University Sleep/Wake Research Centre directed by Professor Philippa Gander and director Sam Trubridge and his company The Playground NZ. It ranges through dance, oration, Greek myth and scientific charts to explore the mysteries of sleep, particularly its “circadian rhythms”. This natural cycle, lasting about a day, is part of the physiological process of all living beings. The philosophy is that our circadian rhythms are often interrupted by the over stimulation we receive in modern life. Reflecting this thesis is a production that is incredibly visually, aurally and mentally stimulating as it charts the stages of sleep.

Upon entering the disused industrial warehouse where the show is set, we are guided to the seating block by an imperious male figure, wearing an unusual long skirted and corseted costume. He turns out to be The Orator, our guide through the production, played by James Conway-Law. On stage in bed is The Sleeper (Claire Middleton). Her sleep patterns are monitored by various wires sticking out from her head and feeding into a computer. The graph of her sleep is projected onto the back wall of the box stage and translated for us by The Orator. Afterwards I was not surprised to read in the programme that an influential text in the development of the piece was by Lacan – the monologue definitely had the feel of the poet-philosopher about it. The Orator then wakes The Sleeper up and manipulates her actions by calling out a series of numbers. The disruption of her natural rhythms is mirrored by the numbers falling increasingly out of sequence. The back of the stage then falls away to reveal a more expansive performance space and the focus turns from oration to movement.

The predominant modes of exploration are dance and technical design. As well as the Sleeper there are two dancers, Elizabeth Barker and Maria Dabrowska. I know very little about the “science” of dance, but the choreography in this production left me exhilarated. It seemed incredibly precise whilst also appearing fluid and at times primal. The sequence of dancing in the water, with the dancers flinging out their limbs and flicking those in the first few rows with drops was stunning. Their movement definitely conveyed much of the mood of the piece, and is complemented excellently by the sound, lighting and audio-visual designs.

The technical design is also stunning – it is great to see what a show with a reasonably healthy budget can do in this regard. There are three separate operators for the show – almost the same number ‘offstage’ as there are onstage. The lighting (by Marcus McShane) and sound by musician Bevan Smith is suitably moody and evocative, and at moments downright threatening. I particularly liked the rolling thunder type effect and the flashes of incredibly bright light that cut quickly to black – they had the effect of jarring the senses. Some fabulous images are projected, the most striking of which is deep sea diver William Trubridge sinking rapidly underwater, curled into a foetus-like ball.

I had a couple of minor quibbles with the show. I thought the addition of the Orpheus/Eurydice myth and its modernisation in a Skype call to the UK was unnecessary. I had really been enjoying the abstraction of the dance and was confused as to how these scenes related, except in the obvious metaphor of the Underworld. Also, the production struck me as profoundly gendered. The Sleeper and the dancers are all female, dressed in scanty costumes and they are manipulated by male figures – the Orator and the stage hands. The myth of Orpheus and Eurydice has also come under scrutiny from feminists due to the voiceless lack of choice Eurydice has. Here too only the (male) Orator is privileged to speak. I’m fairly sure this an unintentional side effect of the show, but it unsettled me nonetheless.

Despite this, I would recommend this show to anyone. Trubridge and his collaborators are to be commended for pursuing such an ambitious vision. The result is a highly challenging, experimental and exciting production, rendering science as amenable to expression through performance. There are moments of humour, surprise and pathos. The production will be fresh and unique every night due to its highly volatile elements. Don’t miss it – due to the intricacy if the production it is unlikely to be repeated.

Originally published in The Lumière Reader.


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Really worth seeing

Review by Lyne Pringle 02nd Feb 2008

This production marks a significant collaboration between The Playground NZ Ltd (Sam Trubridge’s company) and the Sleep/Wake Research Centre directed by Professor Philippa Gander, who is recognized as a creative collaborator in the process. 

Trubridge deserves considerable congratulations for drawing large and disparate elements together to mount this production. One would hope that the considerable resources that Massey has poured into presenting this production and the success of these collaborations bodes well for partnerships in the future. There is a level of sophistication for a Fringe production above and beyond the usual production values for performances fashioned without this level of support.

So the chief creative collaborators have opened up a dialogue between the science of sleep research and the science of performance using the premise that in the world of the sleeping body there is fuel for theatrical exploration into "aspects that lie dormant within us … hidden performances of the self, paranoias, chimeras, obsessions, anxieties, ambitions and dreams". There is a stated aim to meld the languages of movement, image and science to explore a realm where we spend one third of our lives. Choreography is chosen as the predominant mode because – as stated at a pre -show forum – it is most suitable for expressing certain sleep states.

35 King Street is an unused warehouse space, new to theatre events: it is exciting to come to this unknown setting and there is a palpable pre-show buzz in the audience as they settle into a well organized venue with an interesting set. The programme is unreadable in the dark preset.

Appropriately there is a person sleeping: Claire Middleton, who is wired up to scientific equipment which maps scalp, eye and jaw activity onto a laptop. Curiosity is evoked as blips on screen draw audible responses.

A very formal beginning to the evening leaves us in no doubt we are in the presence of auspicious guests: Phillipa Gander’s speech at the beginning is a theatrical punctuation in its own right in terms of valuing the work and placing it as important.
James Conway-Law plays, with dignity, The Orator who introduces us to scientific information about the sleeping body and the data now projected large onto the back wall of the set. It is both technical and poetic text, setting the tone for the interweaving of the scientific and artistic realms; "Without sleep, life is a long seamless today". 

Although the text is quite fascinating the director has made tricky choices for the actor here in terms of costuming and mode of delivery, making it difficult for the audience to relax into the work. He is a cross between Morpheus from The Matrix and a Minonian snake goddess and as such needs to surrender more fully to the theatrical potential of this image. Delving into a physicality to support the text might be interesting.

As Sam Trubridge has stated, watching someone sleep is the antithesis of performance and this is indeed the case as the tempo of the work is slow in building. It is quirky, yet oddly appropriate, to have a world record freediver / apneist, a projected William Trubridge, representing the tension that occurs when the circadian body clock – our own planetary body aligned to the rotation of the earth – is tampered with.

When the tyrannies of modern life styles demand more and more of the individual, less and less sleep results in bodily dysfunction. The Sleeper is forced to wake up and perform certain tasks by The Orator as the pace picks up. There needs to be more interesting explorations of a human’s daily repeating physicality along with the more easily recognizable physical tasks we all do.

In the third scene we are getting ready for dreaming: more scientific information here about how the motor and visual systems take over and memory, logic and critical judgment are repressed. The spinal chord is blocked. "Dreams are not acted out in the real world but exist in a virtual reality." Very Matrix.

There is some clunky action with props here as music – subtle yet totally appropriate sound design from Bevan Smith – enters the mix from this point on.

The sleeper moves to a door at the back of the set, signalling some exhilarating manipulations of the exquisite set, providing depth and a surreality to the performance. An unexpected draught of air is thrilling, making the audience gasp. Strange creatures are fleetingly exposed as the emergence of humour delights.

There is background choreography on 3 beds in a row from Middleton and wonderful dancers Elizabeth Barker and Maria Dabrowska. Tossing and turning bodies express the restlessness of this pre-dreaming phase of sleep.  Unison choreography is followed by a dynamic boneless limp duet with trademark Dabrowska moves. The production is lucky to have these dancers on board with a distinct language of their own, given the short rehearsal period. There are risky moves that had members of the audience gasping once again at the precision involved in staying on the bed without crashing wildly flung heads into head boards.

A strong choreographic sequence is achieved by the two dancers manipulating The Sleeper with inventive use of a sheet as the beds are well used to support an inert body. Bright lights, a rumble of sound and the emergence of a sleeping bag with 4 legs signifies the emergence into the REM zone of deep dreaming.

Subtle and totally sympathetic lighting by Marcus McShane imbues the whole evening with texture and dynamics. The frame of stage is continuously used in an excellent way as Boris the Bear played by Dan Williams flits in and out. Masked stage hands expertly manipulate set and objects. Walls are used effectively to signify the altered spatiality that one often experiences in dreams as the excellent set continues to yield surprise after surprise.

Yet often the work, for all its brilliant ideas and elements, feels as if it needs more rigorous direction in terms of pacing, logic, energy, rhythm and pitch – if it was wired up to a machine it would produce a flat read out. More time beyond the brief 3 week rehearsal period I’ m sure would help this. It takes time to develop a choreographic language. 

As we enter the confusing realm of the mythic, The Orator begins to sing in Latin about the life of the spirit after death as he moves into a different role. Taps are turned on and water precious water begins spilling as the set becomes even more alive. Water reflects onto the wall and ceiling of the set to give a stunning effect.

But words about mythology are hard to catch and it seems the director has pushed off from the shores of the scientific into the seas of the well chartered scapes of Greek theatre.  The metaphor for sleep as a descent into the underworld and fuel for ancient mythologies is less successful here and perhaps needs to remain tethered to the pragmatics of the scientific method.

Now as Orpheus, The Orator makes a long journey to the front of the stage and re-enacts his folly by turning back to see the sleeping Eurydice before she has safely left the realms of Hades. He takes off his costume, bathes his face and spends what seems a long time singing into a sink – presumably re-enacting the breath holding sequence from earlier and crying a river of tears as he grieves. Meanwhile sleeping dancers with eye masks sleep on the fringes as water seeps towards them … We are in absurdist territory now. Wet dreams abound and nightmares take over as the sink explodes.

Orator/Orpheus roams convincingly forlorn as the audience is fascinated with the water filling space.  A beautiful passage of highly articulate dancing follows with a stunning visual dialogue between the reflections on the set and the dancer’s bodies: Maenads luring Orpheus to his demise is one of the most successful integrative moments, for the various disciplines, in the show.

The energy and tempo escalate here with thrashing heroic work from the dancers as the audience is sprayed water and feathers fly.

A flurry of activity with strange creatures, whirling jacked up beds and gyrating dancers leaves no doubt we are in the hell realms of nightmare but the build is overly long and loses some of its punch.

The final scene is somewhat confusing as state of the art earth shrinking technology is used in an attempt to rectify the doomed reunion of Eurydice and Orpheus.

However the final image leaves a wonderfully poetic image on the retina.

This is a rich piece of theatre art with rich collaborations woven into the tapestry of the whole; an intriguing dance between science and theatre. How fantastic that Massey has come to the party to resource this production well. It would be good to see Trubridge and his team given the time that they need to fully realize the ‘science of performance’. The relatively long season should prove fruitful in terms of development.

Really worth seeing.


Katrina Chandra February 7th, 2008

Great, thoughtful and practical critique Lyne, unfortunately I won't be able to see the show, but it sounds excellent and I wish Sam et al all the best for their season.

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