Mind Full

Mind Full
Photo credit: Rebecca Rayne

What do you do if you can’t sleep? In pre-smartphone days, you had to make do with counting imaginary sheep, but now you have a whole host of apps designed to help you get over your insomnia. But what if your voiceover artist ex just so happens to be the narrator? In the latest play from Tom Hartwell, Mind Full, we watch as stand-up comic James struggles with his career and his sleep health – the latter being compromised by the fact that he hears his ex (Claire) everywhere, even in his mindfulness app. This, of course, means that she finds her way into his dreams…

The topic of sleep health is an increasingly popular one, especially now that we can monitor our own subconscious habits from the comfort of our own home – and utilising the fantastical world of dreams in a play like this is a stroke of genius. It naturally lends itself to some slightly more surreal moments (yes, I’m thinking of the frolicking elephants), as well as the insidious nature of those dreams that are so vivid that you can’t be sure if you’re awake or just asleep. Not only does it allow both James and Claire to reminisce over the good and bad parts of their five-year relationship, piecing the story together for the audience without it feeling forced, but it also makes the occasional forays into stand-up feel like less of a leap.

The set is made up primarily of a bed with an accompanying mic stand, from which Claire (Katherine Moran) delivers various voiceovers and James (Hartwell) commandeers for his comedy routines. Though the voiceovers could potentially have been delivered offstage, so we just hear them (as with regular voiceovers), there is great added value in Moran being onstage to incorporate some physical comedy via her excellent facial expressions – plus it’s an extra demonstration of just how intrusive this is on James’ sleep.

Their relationship breaking down is what leads to James’ poor sleep health, which in turn affects Claire and her career prospects when he starts leaving her drunken voice notes in the middle of the night, and what begins that breakdown is James continually mining their private life for material – despite Claire making it very clear how uncomfortable it makes her. This little look at so-called ‘censorship’ of comedy succinctly shows just how damaging an apparently harmless story can be, as well as the wide-ranging and unpredictable consequences for all involved.

Hartwell and Moran both have brilliant comic timing, bouncing off one another in their conversations (and arguments), and nailing some truly hilarious one-liners. Claire’s calm and smiley delivery of some incredibly biting lines is a real highlight. Despite this generally light-hearted approach, the more serious content doesn’t lose any heft, making the show an enjoyable and thought-provoking piece.


My verdict? An enjoyable and thought-provoking show, combining theatre with stand-up comedy – Hartwell and Moran have excellent comic timing.

Rating: 4*

Mind Full runs at The Hope Theatre until 11 March 2023. Tickets are available online. For sleep support, contact the National Sleep Helpline (run by The Sleep Charity).

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