To Sleep To Dream: Corn Exchange: Review

Graham Robson May 6, 2013

ToSleepToDream2The European premiere of EarFilms‘ dystopian ‘auditory experience’ To Sleep To Dream blurred the lines between reality and dream-land, using blindfolds to deprive the audience of sight.

It’s 2040, and the world as we know it has been submerged beneath the oceans, leaving just one city, Lhaytar, remaining – a society built under the supreme control of one corporation, a city where dreaming is banned.

Narrator and writer Daniel Marcus Clark‘s soothing voice wove a story of standard dystopian fare, which followed the character of Jack, a worn-out worker bee, living a bleak existence of monotonous routine exacerbated by constant CCTV surveillance.

On departing, To Sleep To Dream recalled Wyndham’s The Kraken Wakes, stopped off at the surveillance state of Orwell’s 1984, and then arrived at the dreamtime warriors of Nightmare on Elm Street, with militia fighting to merge two worlds, or “realms”, together.

A total of 23 speakers were placed meticulously around the auditorium so that each audience member, regardless of where they sat, were able to sample the stunning palette of images and colours conjured up during the 75 minutes.

Immersive soundscapes from the 3D ambisonic sound system were at once meditative, at others disconcerting. The sloshing sea lapped over our heads; the scratching of a pencil during a secretive spot of doodling spiralled like nails down a blackboard; while disembodied robotic voices laid down the law in passive aggressive tones.

Such was the nature of the story that while the audience were encouraged to let their mind’s eye run free, the structure was either too stiff to be a playground for the imagination or too far fetched to be reflective, such as the transformation of Jack from grumbling oaf to superhero or a penchant for rushed soap opera cliff hangers. 

Nevertheless, To Sleep, To Dream was an experience, albeit one marred by its structure, yet beautiful when tinged with sadness. 

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