BBC Radio 4, 15 June 2013
Set in a contemporary Britain
which seems recognizable except for one element - human beings never sleep - The Sleeper offered a disturbing vision
of a dog-eat-dog world. Shops stay open; people work round the clock; hotels are for private meetings and illicit sex;
but this apparently libertarian world is rigidly controlled by a government which seems paranoid about preventing people sleeping.
In political terms, The
Sleeper could not have been broadcast at a more opportune moment. On the day it appeared, Turkish riot police forcibly
cleared Taksim Square in Istanbul, where a group of - mostly youthful - protestors had camped out for the previous
nineteen days in an attempt to prevent a local park from being converted into a shopping mall. It was a prime example
of how a repressive regime was so paranoid about itself that it could not tolerate any expressions of dissent. Likewise
The Sleeper focused on a teenage girl, Ella (Sarah Churm) who could sleep, but ended up on the run with
her friends from the authorities who were desperate to "study" (read imprison) her. Eventually they encountered a
wealthy man, Hypnos (Kevin Doyle), who offered them refuge -- but at a price. No one, it seemed, could tolerate
someone who dared to be different.
Through the use of an ingenious musical score (by Stephen Deazley), sung by members of the Welsh
National Youth Opera, The Sleeper suggested that there was an alternative world - one of relaxation
and calmness, transcending any individual's attempts to repress it. All people had to do was to think beyond the demands
of the moment and look instead at the bigger picture - in other words, think of themselves rather than the contributions they
could make to the betterment of the world they inhabited. The play did not show anyone making that move, but suggested
that it might be possible - if people like Ella were allowed to sleep.
The Sleeper had one of the most vivid sonic scores I have heard in a long time, vividly
contrasting the violence of the outside world with the peace of Ella's state of mind. The director was Susan