The press release for Those Worrisome Sleeps ensured me that, despite featuring a wizard, it would be unwise for me to expect pointed hats, beards, or any other such stereotypically wizardly tropes. The set seems to contradict creator Ben Blow’s assurances— the knotted, wooden pillars and orbs of light conjure memories of summer D&D sessions in a dimly lit café near my old flat. Thematically, however, the production is as devoid of fantastical escapism as a Dawkins text. Those Worrisome Sleeps seeks to tackle the problem of grief and acceptance; of our failings, and what we have lost.
Those Worrisome Sleeps oozes whimsy. Its atmosphere is rock-solid, peppered with skilful use of lighting and a soundscape fit for a show on a much grander scale. The sheer effort put into the world-building elements of this piece is astounding. So rich, in fact, is the world behind Those Worrisome Sleeps that I can’t help but feel a more detailed, comprehensive history of its characters would not only be justified, but also deeply compelling. The central character, Jay, is a complex and infuriating figure. Their immense power is juxtaposed with their frailty and short temper, making this mystical entity feel much more proximate and human. I feel similarly for Jay— I want to learn how their power was acquired, who their teacher was, how someone comes to be a wizard in the world of Those Worrisome Sleeps. Moreover, I feel the humanity leant by Jay’s emotional immaturity was undercut somewhat by the florid dialogue. In a play with such raw thematic potential, and convincing emotional performances, verbosity can sometimes serve to drain energy and emotional clout from certain scenes. Granted, the play does have a quasi-medieval setting, but the inclusion of modern curses further confuses this. Though the writing boasts rich imagery and a wonderful turn of phrase, I feel some further concision is in order, if only to sharpen the already keen edge of Those Worrisome Sleeps.
For all its mysticism, fantasy, and spectacle, there is a deeply human story at the heart of Those Worrisome Sleeps. The fantastical framing doesn’t detract from the emotional impact of its central theme, grief. Its emotional lows are harrowing, and the cold, deadpan delivery of the supporting cast serves to solidify the harsh realities underpinning the whole story. Jay learns to let go and forgive themselves as the piece transpires, processing anger, love, apology and joy in equal measure throughout. The supporting cast are equally varied, embodying bitterness, servitude and scorn to deep efficacy. Those Worrisome Sleeps is an emotional journey for the viewer, one you are guided down by the memories of a wizard. This is just as enjoyable as it sounds.
Those Worrisome Sleeps runs at 18:35 until the 26th, in Grassmarket, Sweet Venue 2. For a human story, in an inhuman realm of possibility and magic, Somna recommends catching Those Worrisome Sleeps