Saturday 3 September 2016

How Can You Sleep At Night? - Melbourne Fringe Festival preview

Write about what you know. That's exactly what Christian Taylor has been doing for the last seven years, even if he didn't know it at the time. In the premiere of his Melbourne Fringe festival solo show, How Can You Sleep at Night?, he opens up about his long experience with insomnia, as well as death and climate change.

"My insomnia isn't a case of having difficulty initially falling asleep, but instead I wake-up and fully regain consciousness anywhere between five and twenty times a night. This means I rarely hit REM sleep, and wake up feeling like I've been hit by a truck. There's usually a few months where I sleep okay, but then it comes back with a vengeance. Doctors deemed it wasn't physiological, but probably more psychological," Taylor explains.

"I think most people have a turbulent relationship with sleep. It is hard to do well. Sleeplessness of a psychological nature often comes down to whether we feel safe or not. As I explored my insomnia more and more, I realised that it wasn't the full story, it was merely a symptom of deeper set anxieties. Once I started exploring my anxiety about death and the end of the world, and subsequently climate change, I could not help but explore it theatrically - the reality of the situation is really scary, a nightmare of sorts."

"I'm trying to use my personal experience of insomnia and death to reframe the issue of climate change for a culture that is oversaturated and frankly bored by it. I think it is far too easy to diminish or over-simplify things that are incomprehensible, so that we can comfortably understand them, and then in the case of climate change, ignore them."

Taylor began creating this work back in 2012, where it was an initial 10 minute solo performance as part of his studies at VCA, and it was only due to the insistence of a lecturer that he pursed a full length show. "After that initial performance I left it alone for almost two years. Despite what my lecturer thought, I didn't see how a full length show would be interesting," he recalls. "I revisited it in my final year for an assessment piece, but again discarded the idea. I think I thought talking about my insomnia was self-indulgent, but in some ways I have been constantly working at it. I've kept sleep journals, dream journals and midnight iPhone recordings, compiled lists of things I needed to do or research the next day. I've been generating content over the last seven years, I just didn't realise it until recently."

How Can You Sleep at Night? went through 17 drafts and the creative process of making a solo show was a steep learning curve for Taylor. "It has actually dramatically changed how I live my life in very tangible ways. I've never been affected by a process this much before, both for good and bad. Hands down the greatest challenge was figuring out what the show was about. Even once I realised the show had to tackle climate change and my personal relationship to death, there are just so many different ways in which to approach such huge topics," he says.

"I don't think any of these issues are meant to be comfortable though. They are deep, dark, and bottomless. Our inability, and subsequent refusal, to deal with them is evident in the huge rise in recent years of rates of anxiety and depression. Maybe confusion, grief, laughter and anger are not only understandable responses, but also necessary. I've tried to embrace that incomprehensibility a little bit in this show."


If you had to name your child after a vegetable what would it be?


Which reality TV show would you most like to appear/compete on?
The Amazing Race

The most irritating habit I have is never replying to text messages.

What's a song that sums up your life?
'Dreamer' by Supertramp

During Fringe, I really, really, really want to be immersed in art every single day that isn't my own.

Venue: Fringe Hub - Upstairs at Errol's, 69 - 71 Errol St, North Melbourne, 3051
eason: 16 - 23 September | Tues - Sat 6pm, Sun
Length: 60 minutes
Tickets: $24 Full | $20 Conc | $18 Cheap Tuesday
Bookings: Melbourne Fringe Festival


  1. Can confirm he never replies to texts. It's maddening.

    1. Yeah I'm an instant replier so probably the other extreme!