Festival Hot Seat: Elephant and Castle
Husband and wife team, Tom Adams and Lillian Henley’s show Elephant and Castle is all about Tom's sleep talking and sleep walking. We caught up with Tom to find out more…
Firstly, can you introduce your show and tell us what it is about?
Hello, our show is called Elephant and Castle. It is a Gig-Theatre show all about sleep walking and sleep talking told by a married couple, me (Tom) and Lillian. It uses live music, theatre, and 300 audio recordings of me sleep talking taken from three years to tell a personal and wider story about relationships, identity and how to cope when your partner is a parasomniac.
Some of the audio recordings are funny. Some of them are dark and disturbing. All of them tell us something. Something that is desperate to be heard. And may be catastrophic for this relationship. It is called Elephant and Castle because the first thing I said to Lillian in my sleep was “I want to get in a wardrobe and take you to ‘Elephant and Castle”.
How and where will the work be staged?
Our show is staged like a live music gig, with piano, electric guitar and microphones
dotted around the stage. We want people to feel the intimacy of our bedroom so we
have a large inflatable bed with a dark red divan in the centre of the stage which we
manipulate, lie on top of, project animation onto. Lillian and I wear paisley pyjamas
and the feel of the show is intimate, funny and a little bit dirty. It has been described
as David Lynch meets Skegness B&B.
Why should someone come and see your show?
It is a personal story told by a real life married couple about subjects that affects us all: How do we sleep? Who are we when we go to sleep? Do we really know the person we share a bed with?
The show has a strong narrative but also a dreamlike flow to the style. The music is inspired by Americana with storytelling and humour and Lillian’s voice has been called
‘extraordinarily beautiful’ by The Stage and the humour of the songs as ‘Bill Baileyesque’.
Where did the idea and inspiration come from?
When Lillian and I first got together, she told me that I slept talked and slept walked a lot. I did not know this really. I knew I had a slight problem, but I didn’t know it was every night.
This made me download the cool app for the iPhone called Sleeptalk that switches on at night when any sounds are made. I realised that I was saying interesting things most nights such as “Ooooh you don’t want to see this guy, Jesus” and “Can I have a potato? Um, just one thanks”. I had been wanting to collaborate with Lillian for a long time and this felt like the perfect project to work together on. A true story about us.
Why do you think it’s an important story to tell?
I think it is an important story because it is true. We have not doctored or exaggerated any of the stories about the sleep talking or sleep walking I do. It is a clear, intimate portrayal of a couple which invites the audience to view their own relationships in another light. The show’s message is ultimately about love and compassion for each other.
What sort of person is going to love this show?
Someone who wants something different from a live performance.
Someone who enjoys watching alternative comedy
Someone who is interested in the science of sleep
Someone who would usually watch live music. They will come for the live music and really enjoy the storytelling.
What’s going to surprise people about this show?
There is a moment of beautiful silliness 3/4 of the way through the show that will get people’s attention.
What does Brighton Festival mean to you?
Woe are so proud to be programmed alongside such brilliant artists.