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  • Henry Longstaff

Mind Full - The Hope Theatre

Theatre and stand-up comedy combine in Tom Hartwell’s new play

Photography: Rebecca Rayne


James openly admits he’s “never been good in bed,” - not like that! He struggles to sleep that’s all. Since his last relationship ended, he has become reliant on mindfulness apps designed to distract the overactive mind, lulling the individual off to a relaxed sleep. The problem however, is that his ex Claire is the voice on the app - he cannot escape her. This relentless cycle of insomnia results in James dissecting his failed relationship and life as a stand-up comedian whilst his voice-over actor ex alerts him that there is an unexpected item in the bagging area wherever he goes.

Hartwell has crafted a wonderful comedy grounded in everyday realities. The script is packed full of beautifully silly jokes but equally weaves a story of surprising heart and humility in parallel. Using the lens of sleep deprivation, the script presents us with a relationship we know is fated to fail, yet thanks to their inherent charm, we root for them nonetheless. Continuing to generate laughter from the audience, Hartwell nicely veers into the complex world of comedy and the constantly shifting topical landscape of where a joke goes too far. A division arises as James uses sensitive and not altogether accurate, anecdotes about himself and Claire in his stand-up material as she battles to be with the real James and not the persona on stage. Despite harmless intentions is it ok to tell jokes at another’s expense?

Katherine Moran (Claire) and Hartwell work delightfully together, passing the microphone between themselves, each given space to take a comedic lead whilst also allowed to share vulnerabilities and tenderness. Hartwell, a gifted comedian, engages with some delightful crowd work whilst using his humour as a defensive mechanism for his character James. Moran utilises her experience as a voice actor with sublime delivery of her calming sleep stories overflowing with dry humour and sarcasm. The pair form a believable, and despite their faults, likeable couple who like so many, reach an impassable impasse. As the lack of sleep threatens both characters, the multi-talented Conor Cook’s (director, sound designer, stage manager) sound design kicks in, replaying overlapping voices and moments from the play to emphasise the delirious state insomnia can push a person into.

The creative team have achieved an impressive feat in creating a show full to the brim with humour and silliness yet tackling huge topics around relationships, sleep and censorship. It is accessible and entertaining, worthy of a life beyond the space it currently occupies.

Running till 11 March - Tickets

Photography - Rebecca Rayne

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