Slumber Party

I went to see Sleepova at Bush Theatre.

“Relaxed environment” also means that during one of the dance scenes a member of the audience was invited to join in.

The performance is in the main Holloway Theatre. Although it is arranged in the 3-sided configuration, the back wall does have a doorway to a side section that is open and used during the Prom Night sequence, which is not so visible to the side blocks. The floor space has many compartments that are utilised to store props for when they are needed, and at the end it opens to represent a burial site for a time capsule ceremony.

The cast slowly drift into the main space while the audience are entering, and their appearance is preceded by hearing snippets of conversation and also moments when they are singing over song lyrics. This space is occupied by 4 teenage girls who are usually staying the night at one of their houses. Although parents, teachers and possible boyfriends are mentioned, we never see encounter any of them except as a voice off stage.

Funmi, Rey, Shan and Elle are all living in “East London” (exact area unspecified), attending the same secondary school and expecting to carry on together at college. The year is 2018, we are told at the end, and in the opening scene they are celebrating Shan’s 16th birthday. They all have in common that they each have at least 1 African parent, but there are still a lot of differences: Rey has already declared herself to be queer, and it seems she has some trust fund money to look forward to when she’s 21, and her dad can fix her to get internships and other favours. Elle has strict Christian parents who won’t let her stay over past midnight, and she regularly mentions her religion. Funmi suffers from Sickle Cell Disease. Shan hopes to be an artist, it’s her strongest subject.

They talk a lot about boys and clothes and parents and what they want to do in the near future. They spend a lot of time on their phones, or watching films on streaming services. They talk about their relationships with their families and heritage. Their school has a Prom Night in which they get plenty of dancing in but also find out one of them has feelings for another. There is talk about being sent to a special “Christian Summer Camp” and the attitudes behind the parents who sent their children to them to get “cured”. There is also a long comical discussion of a white boyfriend who says he doesn’t usually go out with “brunettes” – the term has to be explained, with examples, to make clear what he was really trying to say. Deaths and illness break in to the story regularly. As this is a story about young people they are not greatly aware of the wider world, although “reparations” and “Audre Lorde” turn up as jokey references in some of their banter together. The final laying of the time capsule is a reconciliation of their disagreements, which were never so very severe, and they can hope to stay together in the next few years.

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