For its sufferers, bullying is a life-changing experience, from which some may never recover. Whether it is obvious and direct or insidiously subtle in nature, bullying is designed to intimidate and set apart.
Trash Theatre’s Somnia is a short but unflinching performance of the trauma bullying inflicts on its victims. Told in first person by two male and female high school students, Somnia attempts to unravel the complexity of bullying through stories of abuse exacted by friends, family and teachers.
This is where Somnia fails. Although the piece makes a valiant attempt to present a full picture, it lacks depth in subject matter. I was touched by this series of emotional vignettes but had hoped for something a little more visionary. Unfortunately this is a fairly standard investigation into bullying, which left little time to dig down to its roots. While greatly illustrating different experiences of and extreme responses to bullying, the play glosses over why people do it. Here, we are confronted with the reductive generalisation that ‘everyone is a bully/ everyone is also bullied’.
However, I can forgive the lacklustre script, as other aspects of this performance were truly impressive. The two young actors were passionate, vivid and fearless in their portrayals of traumatised yet assertive victims. Although working with only a basic set and a small room, they managed to set fire to the piece. The choice of music and lighting was also highly affective, both put to good use for spacing, setting scenes and bringing each vignette to its crescendo. A further use of humour was also affective, adding areas of light to the darkness.
Overall, despite a troubling script, I was overcome by the passion of the two performers and their intensely personal experiences of bullying. Somnia is a well-meaning play covering a basic theme: the desire to be included and the trauma that comes when you aren’t.
Reviewed by Ashleigh Wadman
This review is based on the reviewer’s experience of the performance on May 11.