Sleep with Me at the National - Cottesloe
Sleep with Me is the kind of play that leads your average man in the street to conclude that media luvvies are, in truth, so far up their own arses they ve got to part their tonsils to see.
The story, which centres around novelist/screenwriter Stephen (Sean Chapman) as he attempts to braces himself to desert his wife and children, is written by novelist/screenwriter Hanif Kureishi who, lo and behold, recently deserted his wife and children. Kureishi's marriage breakdown made headlines last year, in particular, because he wrote a thinly veiled autobiographical novel, Intimacy, about the experience. Sleep with Me treads very similar ground and apparently (for, I admit, I haven't read the novel) even shares some lines of dialogue.
Eight city-dwellers gather at the country house of Stephen and his social- and career-climbing wife Julie (Sian Thomas) for a weekend of networking, back-stabbing and love-making. Or, to be more accurate, sex rather than love-making for, although it seems that just about every character either has slept with most of the members of the opposite sex or intends to, there is very little love lost between any of them.
Julie wants to snatch her husband's latest script from his usual coke-snorting producer Charles (Jonathan Hyde); Stephen wants to steal the girlfriend from his old mate and media mogul Russell (Adrian Lukis); Russell wants to lure social worker Sophie (Penny Downie) away from her teacher partner and children for a job that includes long hours and sex on the side. And, and, and....
Rather than feel the slightest bit of guilt over such peccadilloes, the characters prefer to freely espouse illogical justifications for their actions, wallow in self-pity and viciously debate the state of art, the middle classes and the death of Marxism. Kureishi has them reeling off preposterous statements with the ease which most people reserve for commenting on the weather. From the unkind, uttered without a hint of levity (“there are some fucks for which a man would watch his wife and children drown in a freezing sea”), to the just plain pretentious (“do you like being alive?”).
The cast does its utmost, but it's impossible to make any of these characters sympathetic under such circumstances. Those who fare least badly are Downie's Sophie, whose disillusionment and fatigue are palpable; Hyde's Charles, who knows he's a ‘wanker so doesn't have to pretend otherwise; and Kacey Ainsworth s au pair Lorraine, who while caricature working class at least escapes the drive for artifice.
From the outside looking in, this production has everything going for it: a talented cast, an engaging travese stage set (care of Tim Hatley) and a distinguished director in Anthony Page. If only they could drag their big name writer out from up there.