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11 May 2011
Falling asleep at the theatre: An interview with Simon Casson

Naima Khan: Spoonfed

Simon Casson talks to Naima Khan about Lullaby, an over-night theatre show with the aim of getting the audience to fall asleep.

I feel slightly guilty when I welcome Simon Casson, producer at The Duckie Collective, to Spoonfed Towers. It's 2pm but lunch hour is carrying on with no end in sight and the Spoonfed team who, as Simon put it, “are all a bit trendy” have no intention of abandoning the sunshine to do some work. Meanwhile, indoors, I ask Simon to stand still and watch the fun outside so photographer Alex Brenner can take some shots.

He obliges and makes a few things abundantly clear: 1) He is far trendier than any of the Spoonfed team 2) He doesn't want you to get caught up with the strap-line for Duckie: 'Purveyors of progressive, working class entertainment' - it's a joke, and 3) He tends to fall asleep... a lot. He admits that even Black Watch, one of the loudest plays to have graced the Barbican, sent him to sleep. The Barbican, incidentally, is the venue of his next show, Lullaby, where the main aim is to get the audience to fall asleep.

In doing so it places itself at odds with every other theatre show out there, explains Simon: “Going to theatre's like hard work isn't it?” he tells me, “often theatre people even call it “work”. They say “do you like the work?” The truth is, Casson doesn't. “No one's going to be challenged or confronted in this show. People are going to be relaxed, soothed and cradled, it's the opposite of in-yer-face theatre.” That, coupled with Duckie's strap-line, is no doubt music to the ears of the Arts Council; a show unlike any other designed to “create an event that people who don't normally go to the theatre would like to see” will draw attention to itself but does it have reason to?

The artists involved answer that question easily. Their quixotic, otherworldly narrative styles fit the essence of the show and proves the over-night theatre experience is no gimmick. Tim Spooner and partner Matthew Robbins provide the dreamy visual aspect and the storytelling, while the Plewis sisters H. and Harriet provide the music. Whether they'll stimulate the imagination or lull us to sleep remains to be seen but their plans to create some easy theatre seems achievable.

But what's more interesting is the potential for such a personal, albeit shared over-night experience. Much like going to a festival, audiences will experience a wholly unusual night at the theatre. They'll be in the same venue, watching the same acts but each person will have their own personal arena to explore too. And with the option to watch the show from a single, double or triple bed complete with bed-side lamp and curtains for some privacy, you have the option of cordoning yourself off from fellow audience members. Few shows offer such ownership of a space as Simon explains to me: “The audience will watch for a while, listen to some music and then take a break to go to the loo, have some cocoa and then they'll return to their bed and they'll feel like it's their bed because they were lying in it before.”

Whether the audience falls asleep or not may turn out to be secondary. Through Lullaby, Duckie will give theatre goers a way of making the theatre space their own, even if they are alongside dozens of others doing the exact same.

Lullaby runs at Barbican Pit Theatre from 25th June until 23rd July.

Image: Simon Casson by Alex Brenner ©

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