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The nocturnal activities of a sleep-talker and walker. Tom Adams on his experimental gig-theatre show - Elephant and Castle

Performer and composer Tom Adams and Lillian Henley (Associate Composer of 1927) are a married couple and have made a Gig Theatre show about sleep talking and sleep walking, using over three years of sleep talk recordings of Tom. What you see is a tender, funny, intimate and sometimes dark portrait of a relationship, exploring the meaningless utterances that Tom speaks in the night.

Is there something that wants to be said? How does Lillian cope? How honest can you be with your partner before breaking apart?

Tom Adams explains more…

Elephant and Castle is a gig-theatre show, with songs and anecdotal stories about my nocturnal activities whilst I sleep walk and sleep talk. The show contains verbatim audio recordings of some of the obscure things I have said over the past three years.

Things I have said in my sleep include:
“Can I have a potato?… Erm, just one thanks”
“I want to get in a wardrobe and take you to Elephant and Castle”
“Fuck OFF! Fuck YOU Fuck YOU!! NO!! NO!!”

Things I have done whilst sleep walking include:
Pissed into a bin. Lillian asked me what I was doing. I turned around and said “Stop pissing about Lill”
Walked into a door.
Punched Lillian in the head.

All of the recordings were made in our ground floor flat in Elephant and Castle. We lived there for six years. We loved that place. I did once lock myself out of this flat too in my sleep and woke up in the lobby in my pants. Lillian had to let me back in as I called through the letter box. I have never walked out onto the street naked though like some people have. I do sleep naked and should probably reconsider my attire as I nocturnally walk about.

Extreme cases of sleep walking include Kenneth Parks who stabbed his mother in-law to death in her bed in 1987. A court of law judged him innocent as he was unconscious at the time. Kenneth Parks walked free.
Amazing.
I don't know if Lilly is worried that I am going to kill her in my sleep but there's no knowing what's going to happen. How can I stop it?

I started working on this show as a solo project but the more I spoke about it with Lillian, we realised I wasn't in control of my actions whilst asleep or even aware I had been sleep walking or sleep talking. We realised that this story was also about how we cope as a couple, navigating the ridiculous and sometimes dangerous scenarios we found ourselves in. We felt that we could be brave together and share something intimate with our audience whilst always aiming to entertaining. Other things I have done in my sleep is call out for my Mum, my brother, wet the bed and chuck our duvet out of the attic window.

We call the show ‘Gig Theatre’ as we are a live band who play narrative songs woven together, put on stage with theatrical elements. We have a large bed that loads of the songs and music is played from. For the audience, the show feels like being in our bedroom with us as we tell you darkly comic, intimate stories with a healthy amount of sleep talking swearing.

The show is very humorous, but it also has a dark side and an educational side too, considering the fact that we are bringing to light the issues of people who are afflicted with parasomnia. We just tried to be honest. The sleep talk recordings say it all and you can hear Lillian’s confusion too. We made the show in consultation with Dr Ian Smith, Chief Consultant at Papworth Respiratory Support and Sleep Centre, the largest sleep clinic in the country. Dr Smith was so helpful as part of our research as he diagnosed me with slow wave sleep parasomnia. It was good to be able to understand more what I have and meet and interview other patients at the clinic. All of this research was folded into the music and story. 

We surrounded ourselves with a great creative team, David Parkin, Andy Purves, Kirsty Housley (Co-Director of Complicite’s The Encounter), Derek Andrade and with the support of John Kirby at Attenborough Arts Centre, Brian Logan at Camden People's theatre and Marie McCarthy at Omnibus Theatre.

We began to feel it really was a story worth telling.

Tom Adams

www.tom-adams.co.uk | @TomAdamsSeagull

Elephant and Castle
Tue 09 - Sat 20 Oct 2018, 19:15
Camden People's Theatre
A show by Tom Adams and Lillian Henley. Supported by Arts Council England, Theatre Royal Margate, Camden People’s Theatre, Attenborough Arts Centre, Omnibus Theatre.
Tickets and info: www.cptheatre.co.uk