Elephant & Castle, Omnibus Clapham – Review


Approximately eight years ago, one particular internet site created a buzz – Sleep Talkin’ Man (http://sleeptalkinman.blogspot.co.uk/) – a chronicle of the funny, surreal things that a husband says in his sleep. Roll on to 2017, husband and wife team Tom Adams and Lillian Henley have devised an experimental show based on Tom’s own sleeptalking/walking episodes.

Tom Adams and Lillian Henley

Entitled Elephant & Castle after one the references in his somnambulistic outbursts, the show is a series of songs and music that reflect the different levels of sleep that all people undergo. Arriving on stage in their pajamas behind a double bed, Adams and Henley sing a couple of hilarious songs about how they first met in public and their first night together. If Henley hadn’t seen somnambulism up close before, she would now…

Someone once said swearing isn’t funny or clever. This show begs to differ! Not that it appears all the way through, but on the odd occasion that it does – ie while sleeptalking – it’s all the funnier because of its context.

Henley is a renowned and successful composer in the world of British theatre, and it is during the segments that depict Adams’ deeper sleep that Henley performs ‘music with gravitas’ on keyboards by herself, accompanied in near-darkness by projected noirish imagery.

Staying on the darker end of the spectrum in E&C, somnambulism’s status in the eyes of the law is explored, as are crimes committed ‘under the influence’. However it isn’t too long before the show’s tone returns to its jovial overtures, with tunes about Adams’ proclivity for naked sleepwalking and Henley’s strategies in such situations.

While excerpts of Adams’ humourous nocturnal outbursts  punctuate the show at regular intervals, the show as a whole tries to offer a comprehensive perspective of somnambulism – demystifying its unusualness, but fully appreciating the absurd, humorous and sometimes dangerous positions it puts the sleepers and their loved-ones in. While the show ‘works’ admirably in its own fashion, if the tone of Elephant & Castle was the same throughout with funny song after funny song, I’m sure it would be the sort of show that would be a massive hit at the Edinburgh Festival.

© Michael Davis 2017

Elephant & Castle ran at Omnibus Clapham on 10th March 2017. It will continue with its UK tour at:

Attenborough Arts Centre, Leicester
18th March 2017

Camden People’s Theatre, London
20th-22nd April 2017

Brewery Arts Centre, Kendal
29th April 2017

South Street Arts Centre, Reading
25th May 2017

Harrogate Theatre
7th June 2017

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