Insomnia Cat Came To Stay – TiNA: Crack Theatre Festival

Insomnia Cat Came To Stay

Due to a full day of rehearsals, the interview with Melbourne-based theatre-maker Fleur Kilpatrick begins just after 8:30pm. Even though the softly spoken director/writer/performer comes across as eager to talk, it’s hard not to be conscious of the time; after all, Fleur has a strict regime to combat her long-term battle with insomnia, and one of the rules is: no stimulating conversations or thinking about work after 9pm.

Fleur’s latest one-woman show, Insomnia Cat Came To Stay, explores society’s relationship with sleep and how a lack of rest can affect a brain. Presented as a stage documentary that is part true story and part waking dream, the show is based on Kilpatrick’s personal journal entries written during an 18-month stint of extreme insomnia. “In the space of a week I would just sleep one night for only a few hours,” she recalls. “I was at the most awake during the night and then catatonic during the day.”

“Insomnia Cat is a very meandering, rambling and manic beast of a script,” Kilpatrick admits. The resulting multi-media production includes live music and hand-drawn animation (by animator Thomas Russell) that will not only be projected against the sets but also Kilpatrick’s striking crimson hair, long-draping white costume and alabaster skin. “The animation makes sense because there is so much imagery,” she explains. “It’s an onslaught of storytelling of all the different thoughts that come to someone through the night – and the animation complements this perfectly.”

Insomnia Cat had its debut with a four-night run in Adelaide, and will come to Crack Theatre Festival off the back of a short run at Melbourne Fringe. Since its first permutation, a full creative team has come onboard, including director Danny Delahunty. “He has given this largely autobiographical work a bit of distance and stopped it from becoming an introverted, self-indulgent mess,” Fleur laughs.

With her theatre company Quiet Little Fox dedicated to discussing health and mental health issues, Fleur is wary of using theatre as a self-indulgent form of therapy. “When doing this kind of work there’s a lot of potential to make something for yourself rather than something the audience will enjoy. The other danger is that issue-based theatre can come across as talking down to people, so you’ve got to go about it in a unique, unusual and unpatronising way.”

It seems with RUOK Day done and dusted and a slew of other mental health campaigns on the horizon, Australians are becoming more open to public discussions of mental health issues. But for Kilpatrick, not all responses to her work have been positive, with some applying the term ‘issues-based’ in a pejorative sense.

“Fifty-five per cent of the population will experience some form of insomnia during their lives,” she continues. “It’s a very universal experience but people don’t talk about it and there’s very little research on it. If there’s something out there that’s affecting that many people it’s our role as theatre makers to talk about these experiences.”

Published in The Brag online and in print on September 27, 2011


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