Insomnia Cat Came To Stay is a play about insomnia stretched to the point of mania. Director Danny Delahunty talks to Zoe Barron about how one might represent that sort of thing on stage.
When director Danny Delahunty was brought on to direct Insomnia Cat Came To Stay in 2011, writer Fleur Kilpatrick gave him some pretty broad boundaries. “When I got brought on to the project,” Delahunty explains, “the writer said she wanted to make something of it but she wasn't sure what, and I said, 'Leave it to me'. So that was when I took what had essentially started as almost a cabaret show, and we got an animator involved to create projection art for the piece.”
Bringing animator Thomas Russell to the project was the first step in many on the way to creating an eclectic, often intense piece of theatre built from a fusion of music, projected animation and performance. The play is the story of Kilpatrick's experience of chronic insomnia, and was initially created from her diary entries during a particularly acute bout of the affliction. As such, the piece is quite surreal in its execution. It relies heavily on Russell's visuals, Sarah Walker's set design, and a soundscape created by composer Roderick Cairns to replicate the strange, waking dream state of severe sleep deprivation.
“It was such an evocative script,” says Delahunty. “The images that she was painting, they were so visceral in the text, I just wanted to double-handle that. I really wanted to give us the experience that she's having.” The script had very little scope for movement onstage, so Delahunty's first step was to play on this and restrict movement completely, essentially tying actor Joanne Sutton to the set. To do this, he put her in a large white dress that turned into a bed, which is where much of the play is set. “She is vertical, upright,” Delhunty says, describing Sutton's positioning onstage, “and the dress kind of extends across and around, and it ties in around on itself to restrict her movement, and then there's a large white background, and all of the movement within the play is done through hand drawn animations projected over the space. So they're integrated within the performance itself.”
These images are meant to represent what is going on in the head of the insomnia-crazed protagonist. This is how Kilpatrick experienced insomnia, and it is through her personal experience that the story is told. “It's an extremely accurate representation of one person's experience of sleep deprivation. And it's pretty clear within the play itself that it is her experience, and the way she expresses it is through things such as, 'I'm a chronic storyteller; I can't stop myself from lying in bed and making up stories and seeing images'. Obviously, not everyone who has insomnia has that particular affliction.”
Still, it is a personal account of a fairly universal experience. “It's funny, the amount of people you get involved with on a project and then they just in casual conversation go, 'Yeah, yeah, I suffer from insomnia',” Delahunty says. And this is how Quiet Little Fox, the theatre company that produced the piece, likes to tell their stories. “Rather than make it a play about a disease, it's about a woman suffering from that disease. That's kind of where Quiet Little Fox theatre come from – they like to tell the individual stories behind the big issues.”
WHAT: Insomnia Cat Came To Stay
WHEN & WHERE: Tuesday 12 to Saturday 16 February - Fringe World, The Blue Room, Perth WA