By Sheroog Kubur, January 25 2022—
The Sleepwalk Collective will be making their Calgary debut at this year’s High Performance Rodeo with three performances. Known for their experimental and novel approach to theatre, the troupe collaborated with Christopher Brett Bailey to create Psychodrama, a show exploring pop culture and the imagination.
“It’s a show which is about our relationship with pop culture, especially when we are children,” said Sammy Metcalfe, co-creator of Sleepwalk Collective. His role primarily concerns the lighting and technical aspects of the show, emphasizing the atmospheric nature of their shows.
Psychodrama is coming to Calgary after a five-week run in Spain, where the show was performed in English with subtitles projected on the stage. While this isn’t the first time it’s being performed for an English-speaking audience, this is the first time Sleepwalk Collective will perform in Calgary.
The name comes from the psychotherapy practice involving dramatization to make sense of one’s life. In this show, psychodrama is used as a tool for exploration into the mindscape of the viewer. It’s a surrealist production involving a consideration of the stretches of the imagination while also asking about its relationship to pop culture.
This production has the audience wearing wireless headphones while the performers are speaking into microphones, making it feel like they’re talking into each ear. This was an early decision of the production, with the themes and what it chose to explore developing with the show itself. Metcalfe highlights the personalized aspect of the story as adding intensity. This is combined with the intricate lighting and sound design, overall creating an individual experience for each audience member.
“The headphones isolate you from the audience in a lot of ways,” said Metcalfe about the effect of the headphones. “Even though you’re sitting and you know you’re surrounded by people, if someone laughs, you don’t get that thing where the laughter is infectious. You’re having quite a private and specific experience.”
The lighting and sound design were done alongside Brett Bailey, the Ontario-born playwright who is both starring and wrote the show. Known for his witty and poignant writing, the collaboration almost felt natural.
“This is the first time we’ve made a show with another artist as an equal collaborator,” Metcalfe said about working with Brett Bailey. “Our work tends to be non-narrative and abstract, sort of sensorial and stuff you can sink into. Psychodrama includes a lot more narrative than we would put into our work.”
While experimental theatre can sometimes feel pretentious or something only a few can understand, Metcalfe maintains that this show is more about the experience than trying to understand any hidden messages.
“People feel like there’s an answer to it or almost like the show is a test,” Metcalfe explained. “But I think a lot of the time, our hope is people experience it how they want to experience it in the moment.”
Psychodrama is one of three shows put on by High Performance Rodeo this year, but the three aren’t interrelated. The show will be open for two days on Jan. 27 and 28 at the Studio in Vertigo Theatre. Tickets start at $25 for students and are available through the website.