Andrew Hawkins stars in the world première of Five Characters in Search of a Good Night’s Sleep, devised by Mike Alfreds and Sonja Linden with the company, which also includes Geraldine Alexander, Sally Knyvette, Gary Lilburn and Vincenzo Nicoli.
The production, originally postponed due to Covid-19 in 2020, opens at Southwark Playhouse on 29 April, with previews from 27 April, and runs until 21 May.
Five Characters in Search of a Good Night’s Sleep has been developed over a two-year period through a series of workshop in which all the material for the play was created by the actors.
You’re starring in Five Characters in Search of a Good Night’s Sleep, what can you tell us about the production?
Formally speaking, the production is quite experimental, with the focus shifting about between each of the five characters as they try to make it through their night. It’s the kind of work where you have to try to let the piece dictate its own form and theatrical language, as the rehearsal process moves (hopefully) forward.
It’s certainly not been quite like anything I’ve been in before, and one of the most important elements remains unknown: what the audience will make of it! Of course, we’re hoping they’ll love it, find it moving, funny etc.
It was devised by the company, tell us more about that process?
There were three two-week workshops over a period of about eighteen months when the actors got together with Mike Alfreds leading the process. I was involved in two of these. The condition of sleeplessness was a given for any character we were inventing and developing.
In one two-week workshop, we built up two characters, which interacted with the various characters created by each of the other actors, producing some very interesting and sometimes quite bizarre biographical material. We also worked with intermediate states between sleep and waking, dreaming etc. The characters’ stories gradually emerged out of improvisations.
Tell us more about your role in the production?
My character is called Harvey; he’s a retired secondary school teacher of History and English, who held strong political Leftist views, which he has not abandoned, but finds the world increasingly and depressingly out of kilter with his convictions. He also lives with the fallout of failed personal relationships, which partly drive him to keep working on a project that helps to ‘get him through the night.’
What do you think will be the biggest challenge for you as a performer with this role?
There are many, but right now, I’m thinking that combining accuracy with being completely present and flexible, is quite a big one.
It was originally scheduled to run in 2020 but was postponed because of the pandemic, what opportunities has the delay given you?
The delay has allowed time to consider and reconsider aspects of the characters, their stories and the production – hopefully to good effect. The world has also changed in that time in no small way, but the issues that the characters are battling with in the play aren’t the type of things that go away; they are built into the fabric, and drama, of life.
What would you say to anyone thinking of coming to see Five Characters in Search of a Good Night’s Sleep?
Try and get a good night’s sleep beforehand, and please do come and give it a go — you’re not likely to see anything like it anytime soon. And I hope you find it surprising and entertaining, as well as moving and thought-provoking.