Review: Dangerous Visions: The Sleeper

The SleeperBy Michael Symmons Roberts

Radio 4, 15th June

In a world where sleep is a distant memory, someone who can grab forty winks is a target…

Whatever you do, don’t read the Radio Times description of this play before you listen to it, since it gives away one of the key plot points almost casually… And certainly don’t read what’s on the Radio 4 website: it gives the entire damn plot away!

Roberts posits a world where a mutated strain has deprived humanity of the ability to sleep, so in order to make this seem normal, all references to sleeping are banned – which means there’s a healthy market in ‘slumber videos’.

Rather than examine how this has affected people physically – there’s a brief reference to drug usage but that’s it – or give any suggestions as to how the toxicity problems have been addressed, Roberts’ play focuses on the one person (or at least the one known person – it’s rather confused as to whether there is more than one) who can sleep. Everyone is after this person, who is one of a group of teenage friends in hiding, each with a different agenda.

Although there are various intrigues going on here that are interesting to see resolved, and some extrapolations about how sleep’s disappearance would affect post-coital activity, this could probably have benefited from a shorter slot and tighter editing (probably achieved by removing the narration that feels imposed on the structure). The synthesis of verse, music and speech is effective, but the core idea doesn’t feel thought through enough.

Verdict: An interesting idea that doesn’t quite gel.  6/10

Paul Simpson

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