For those of us who have been nurturing a 1927 shaped hole in our hearts since Golem left theatres in 2015, we have been offered some slight relief. This relief takes the form of Elephant and Castle, an experimental piece of gig-theatre on the ups and downs of sharing a bed with a sleeptalker. Created and performed by real-life husband and wife Lillian Henley (Associate Composer, 1927 Theatre Company) and Tom Adams (Still Score), Elephant and Castle channels folk music, Nancy Sinatra-style moodiness, and choice lighting to create a hilarious bedroom drama.
Elephant and Castle details the couple’s attempts to cope with Adams’ Parasomnia, a condition which runs through his family and sees him talking in his sleep as well as engaging in bizarre night-time antics such as peeing into a bin. Adams’s condition is further complicated by the fact that he sleeps naked. “It’s healthier” he says unashamedly, much to the chagrin of those he encounters during his nightly voyages. Multimedia by nature, the piece intertwines verbatim recordings of Adams’s sleepwalking with discussions with his doctor, narration, original songs and a beautiful black and white film to immerse the audience in the couple’s midnight world. A world that is often hilarious, but one that can also be dark and deeply troubling. Despite the brevity of the piece, the storytelling, composition and visual art present in Elephant and Castle are highly potent.
Henley and Adams are a dream pair, the epitome of the cool couple – a feat hard to pull off in paisley pyjamas. They guide us with ease into their daily (or nightly) lives, explaining the rules of the situation in a manner that feels natural and totally relatable. Though humour dominates the piece, the shifts in tone are a thing of wonder. They feel like a flash in the dark, with the couple’s uneasiness, frustration, and anxiety permeating the surface of the action. The two actors are a perfect counterbalance to one another. Henley’s arresting vocals and piercing gaze meld with Adam’s unabashed and straight forward revelations to construct a thing of beauty.
Henley and Adams continue to push the boundaries of artistry throughout Elephant and Castle, creating a multi-faceted experience from the comfort of their onstage bed. At under an hour, the production manages to temporarily satisfy our hunger for future pieces from the two artists, whilst making us eager for more.
Elephant and Castle is playing at the Camden People’s Theatre until 20th October. For more information and tickets see here.