Lockdown review: small hours

small hours is a play by Ava Wong Davies commissioned by Oxford Playhouse and IF Oxford: The Oxford Science and Ideas Festival. It concerns four characters and their relationship with sleep (or lack of it).

We first meet Aisha (played by Akasha Daley) in the middle of the night, trying not to look at the clock. She hasn’t slept through the night for a long time, and she’s hurting. Her ex-girlfriend, Nush, has other preoccupations and a new destiny, which grows more odd and invasive as the play progresses.

Screencap from small hours
Screencap from small hours

Sleep doesn’t come easily to Nush (played by Anusha Abbas), either, nor comfort. She seeks material goods elsewhere while rejecting her own pictures, and a keepsake of her mother. She’s a daddy’s girl, and when her father passes, young, worked hard, and suffering from a lack of sleep, she is fractured but fuses back together, harder than before.

Her new boyfriend Solomon (Nelvin Kuratu) has a lot of success, but at night he also fails to relax and shut his eyes for the time he needs to rebuild. He’s tense, frusttated, and headed for burn-out. Meanwhile Aisha’s brother Luis (Luis Ribiero), struggling with night shifts and the demands of a new baby, can’t settle and accidentally becomes a hero.

Screencap from small hours
Screencap from small hours

The writing explores many background stories, suggestions and situations, and the interplay between the characters. Aisha and Luis’s Zoom chats are very different to those Luis has with Solomon, his boss, on a smoking break.

The concept of sleep, or lack of, has been a major theme during unsettling times. Whether fear, guilt, overwork, anger or outside forces, we all react in different ways to the call to rest mind and body.

Screencap from small hours
Screencap from small hours

Yasmin Sidhwa directs the individually filmed sections from the young cast of Mandala Theatre Company, who assembled their pieces from locations all across Europe. Edited by Ben Johnston with music by Duotone, this play takes scientific advice on our need for sleep to develop an intriguing piece of drama.

small hours is available until the evening of 25 October and can be booked on a Pay What You Can basis at https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/small-hours-registration-120269538427.

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