Q Theatre, The Vault, Auckland

30/10/2012 - 03/11/2012


Production Details

somnambulism (sɒm’næmbjʊˌlɪzəm): 
a condition that is characterized by walking while asleep or in a hypnotic trance

Hugo and Jordana are a young couple living in a boarding house in Sandringham. Recent immigrants, they job hunt by day and watch television by night. Their daily routine is thrown into disarray when one morning Jordana wakes up with blood on her hands. It’s not her blood, it’s not Hugo’s blood. It’s someone else’s. And Jordana has no memory of how it got there . . . 

Cast: Roberto Nascimento, Liesha Ward Knox 

Coming this Halloween…
30th Oct – 3 Nov
7pm @ Q’s Vault
Tickets from Q 
09 309 9771
305 Queen St, Auckland

Concession: $15 / Adults: $20 
*Booking fees will apply

HORROR FANS! Make a fright night out of it with double feature discounts to experience both THEATRE MACABRE shows Q’s Vault:
THE SOMNAMBULIST by Thomas Sainsbury @ 7pm and
MEAT by Benjamin Teh @ 8:30pm.
Dare to be brave.
Tickets for Two Shows: Concession $25, Adults $35
(offer only available at Q Box Office)

Palpable tension and super twist ending

Review by Stephen Austin 31st Oct 2012

Boy, Thomas Sainsbury sure is pumping out the content at a rate of knots! And it’s regularly of such great quality, with well-rounded characters, sturdy scenarios and a clever sense of the absurd in the everyday. He tackles just about any subject, bounding across genres with seemingly effortless leaps.

The Sonambulist is Sainsbury’s foray into the world of horror, both psychological and visceral, with a storyline that would make Brian de Palma proud.

Hugo (Roberto Nascimento) and Jordana (Leisha Ward Knox) are troubled Argentinian immigrants down on their luck, who aren’t trusted by the neighbours and their landlord, Aria (Lee Smith-Gibbons), just wants the rent paid on time while having amorous feelings for top-floor dweller, Templeton (Chris Parker).

Jordana is sleepwalking (hence the title) and seeing a therapist, Nigel (Tim McPolland), on a regular basis, who seems to be helping her to overcome some significant personal problems.

There are murders happening in the neighbourhood since the new foreigners have moved in and the couple just want to get through to their next pay-cheque without either of them falling apart too much. Things are going to get volatile.

This is a solid central concept with some excellent comedic characters dropped into a rather nasty, psychologically dangerous situation. Sainsbury has given his actors plenty here to dig into to find a truth from, while gripping an audience with a very palpable tension. 

The temptation to play with cheap “jump-scares” must have been great in creating this work, but thankfully the script and most of the playing resists taking such an approach. 

However, when the play turns to the fully psychological analysis of the doctor’s room, it loses a little bit of its realism and the actors are left to resort to some short-hand terms and the waving of pill bottles to resolve a scene. Just a bit more research into some well known clinical terminology and practice could convince me completely.

All of the actors hold credibility and realism in this somewhat warped world well.

Of particular note is Lee Smith-Gibbons’ giddy, track-suited, somewhat trashy landlord, Aria, who manages to win us over while still sustaining some degree of potential guilt within the whodunnit of the early sections of the plot. Hilarious accent and great comic timing.

Roberto Nascimento and Leisha Ward Knox work off each other brilliantly as the central couple and their problems are as palpable as the backstory of their relationship. Their natural playing of untranslated Spanish in heightened moments very effectively pulls us into the world of these characters. We are not given enough sparks to realise their real physical intimacy though, and plenty of moments do present themselves, before the twist at the climax of the play occurs.

That super twist ending is stepped straight out of a paranoid 70s freakout and, being quite unexpected, is great. To say too much would spoil the surprise!

With just a touch more commitment to the realism of the work, and maybe a shade more budget to the staging, this could absolutely tear an audience to pieces in the right hands, and deliver on the cathartic horror promised by publicity.

Some lighting design feels a little uneven, in playing on the horror, disquiet and media-driven themes at the core of the play. A little more commitment to the conceit of the style would be good; at times it simply feels like lights are being flickered for no apparent purpose.

A great ominous rumble soundscape is used sparingly throughout.

Apparently, this is the first theatrical production to use the Q Theatre Vault space. For this production it is quite difficult to see past rows in front, despite the raised staging. Maybe some rostra for seating as well? Also, something really does frustratingly muffle actors in that space… or could it just be those fans, used to keep all that atmospheric smoke at bay? 


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