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Edinburgh Fringe 2013

Bedtime Solos by Jakob Holder

Central Standard Theatre - Kansas City

Genre: Physical Theatre

Venue: Assembly Roxy


Low Down

"The story of a couple over an evening of lovemaking, exploring the isolation that exists between two people even in the height of passion. At times, they speak in conversation, the subtle dance of seduction … other times, they verbalize their innermost thoughts. Existing half in the waking world, half in sleep, connected yet separate. Poetic and dense with imagery, this examination of how we love also considers why we love." Written by Jakob Holder.


Overall, this play from Jakob Holder is a solid, well directed piece of work.

This isn’t a play for everyone, I don’t think I would have personally chosen to see this – I’m not sure if personally there is anything that I have gained from it other than understanding of someone else experience of relationships and connection – i.e. it didn’t quite connect with my experience of the world. I wondered how many other people might connect with it – and might find it cathartic in some way, a release. I wanted to know more about the aim of the play – did it wish to examine this existential sense of being alone – through exploring sex which is meant to be the pinnacle of ‘connection’? Or was it trying to explore sex itself, and the futility of it and the paradox that it doesn’t really connect two human beings…suggesting in fact a re-exploration of what sex is. Do we make too much of it? If we come to the same agreement as the writer that there can be no true connection in sex then what its its purpose? How does it serve us? What are all the tantric forms of sex and spiritual practices about – are they simply illusions?

 I don’t think this play explored fundamental human truths – I think it explored a transitory experience of some individuals…but it didn’t allow scope to explore further than this viewpoint.
We are left with two over-riding, sad images…of the woman reaching out so earnestly, hungrily, desperately trying to finding a way of connecting in some way with her Love…while simultaneously closing her eyes to him…going into herself when she really has an opportunity for intimacy, her life’s past repeating on her…her coping strategy becoming a default. Despite her lengthy soliloquies and heart felt expression we never truly feel as if we hear her voice, she’s a female construct that serves the performance. Interestingly this isn’t a fault of her performance, which she gives powerfully and beautifully at times, with utmost focus and professionalism. The direction here too isn’t a issue – she articulates and moves with the words and the dialogue perfectly. The issue then here it seems is the writing, it feels as if the writer doesn’t truly know her – or expresses too realistically her lack of knowledge of her true self.. and this leaves the piece wanting on some visceral level.
The man however we feel we really get to grips with, we understand him perfectly and utterly – at least from the small snapshot we have of his inner life…we understand him less when he is with his lover – in a classic way he is distant and moody, he turns away or he denies the women of her true being…wanting her to relate to him in a carefree, idealogical image…in the image of ‘woman’ but not in her individual ‘image’. Maybe he has never seen her for herself because he is too busy in his inner world, in his past. Maybe he doesn’t see her because she never truly reveals herself. The most connection we seem to have is when he faces us, the audience, and pours out his inner turmoil, his inner dialogue of confused emotional states that are rooted so firmly in the past that he is locked in them, a prisoner of himself. His voice is brutally, awkwardly, stomach-churningly honest. The scene where he explores, using a mixture of poetic narrative and theatrical soliloquy is extraordinary in its vividness. The actor has this character firmly and fully in his skin. We learn a lot about men, and the lengths they go to prove themselves and ‘perform’, to the point where they are so far removed from the beauty of love making, that the whole act seems a ridiculous and pointless affair. The imagery here is quite grotesque, yet utterly believable – and sadly logical – although there was an opportunity here to explore and reflect more on the idea of bringing ugliness into a state of pleasure in order to prolong the pleasure – but ironically by denying the full and present experience of pleasure. In simple terms – this plays suggests that men need to be first turned on…then have to manipulate themselves through horrible off putting images to be turned off in order to please their women and satisfy her….yet he is never present in the moment. They explore this well on stage visually by the use of the sensual and and beautiful touches that they both respond to yet the touch never connects to skin…
In terms of the production aims – ‘to explore the isolation that exists between two people even in the height of passion….connected yet separate’ it does explore this to a degree, although more successfully from the man’s point of view. What I would argue is that they never quite get to grips with ‘passion’ and I would go as far as to suggest that the reason they don’t connect is that their past does not fully let them release into passion…
Whether intentional or not, I never see passion in this play, I see need and seducing and want but I don’t see passion.
The play also proposed that…’this examination of how we love also considers why we love’. This I’m not convinced it did at all – at least not ‘love’, again we see two individuals with their needs and regrets and past and longings….but just because they connect…doesn’t mean they ‘love’.
If this is true, then this play doesn’t explore an archetypal examination of big themes such as ‘love’ and ‘connection’ – but he does explore themes that many individuals might experience when in an ‘ego state’.
The play as a whole piece however is a solid piece of work…the imagery used such as the white blindfolds signifying the couples blindness to each other works well visually and also gives an almost biblical like imagery to some scenes, which in itself provokes thoughts around sex as the ‘original sin’. The lighting used is effective in creating moods and scene separation, defining clearly when the narrative shifts togetherness’ to inner dialogue. The performers held their characters ably, they both professionally gave it their full energy and commitment. The use of poetic language was striking as were the very densely scripted soliloquies. This was a heavy play to sit through, it had breath but it didn’t often have lightness, perhaps humour might have lifted these characters to a a more accessible level, perhaps not. This was an accomplished piece of work, but it may not be everyone’s cup of tea – for example.  the moment of the physical, wordless beautiful seduction scene between the two towards the end, which was exquisitely performed alongside some improvised Jazz..the play had that feel overall…moments of clarity and genius…moments of unreality…moments of too much noise and cacophony of ideas – all clashing into each other not quite flowing comfortably.
From a personal perspective, this play portrayed sex as existential, gloomy and inevitable. We never really see ‘love making’.There wasn’t much hope in this play. It was however thought provoking and In do recommend seeing it.


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