Reviewed by Flossie Waite & Luke Billingham
Catherine Wheels Theatre Company & National Theatre Scotland
Reviewed at Southside Community Centre as part of Edinburgh International Children’s Festival
For ages 8-13
This is a first in my children’s theatre reviewing career: I almost wrote the exact same first line for my review of Eddie and the Slumber Sisters, Catherine Wheels’ most recent production, as I did for their last show that I saw. Their productions, it seems, consistently have the makings of a Disney Pixar classic. Crooning close harmony trio The Slumber Sisters turn nightmares into dreams, taking a look at the inner workings of the young Eddie’s (Chiara Sparkes) mind – just like Inside Out – and stealthily popping into her bedroom via the closet, in a manner Mike Wazowski from Monsters Inc would be proud of. But the family-friendly film company aren’t the only cultural reference that Eddie and the Slumber Sisters reminds me of. It also draws parallels with Sarah Kane’s 4.48 Psychosis, a play about a struggle with mental illness most acutely felt at 4.48am each morning. In Catherine Wheels’ show the recently bereaved Eddie feels the loss of her grandmother most strongly at 2.17am, when a recurring grief-filled nightmare kicks in.
It’s an ambitious blend of charm and sophisticated emotion that befits a production played out on such a grand scale: Karen Tennent’s impressive set immerses the audience in Slumber HQ, the retro yet high-tech base for the sleep-protecting team (it is aptly described in Herald Scotland’s review as “a cross between a comfy home and the TARDIS”). Though the surroundings are immediately engaging, the narrative takes a while to get going – wordy exposition abounds for the first half. Once the action is properly set into motion, however, Eddie and the Slumber Sisters moves in an enjoyably unexpected direction, melding wackiness with moments of real darkness as Eddie comes to terms with her grief via a hip-swinging visitor.
Unconventional without being impenetrable, and sentimental without being saccharine, Eddie and the Slumber Sisters is an example of what ambitious theatre for children can do. Though somewhat perfunctory in its ending, Catherine Wheels’ show is sure to have a lasting impact on its young viewers’ thoughts about sleep, death, and Elvis Presley.
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