Theatre Review: The Sleeper Is Gripping Experimental Theatre
The Sleeper is based on a real-life incident that writer/director Henry C Krempels experienced, on an overnight train through Europe. He returned to his bed to find a woman sleeping there, who woke up and then bolted past him. He then went to find and talk to the train's manager. The confrontation in the cabin and conversation with the manager are the two central incidents the play revolves around.
I say revolves, because these scenes are recounted and altered repeatedly. For as much as this is a play about a refugee on a train, it's also a comment on narrative itself. At first this is just Karina — who portrays Krempels' analogue — wondering how the interaction might have gone differently. From there, things get a lot more experimental in the final third of the play.
It seems like a mistake at first to frame the story of a refugee through the experience of a middle-class white woman. However, this is an intelligent play that's well aware of its actions, and the battle for ownership of the narrative is a central theme. This battle is achieved brilliantly thanks to the performance of Sarah Agha as the Syrian refugee Amena.
The refugee crisis isn't imprinted on the national brain, the way it was a couple of years ago; this play reminds us of the way we view refugees, and why they're so rarely given a voice in their own story.
The Sleeper, The Space, 269 Westferry Road, Isle of Dogs, E14 3RS, £14/£10, until 14 April
Last Updated 05 April 2018