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The Dark Side of Your Pillow - Baz Science Lesson No.3

We just can’t stop with all the head shrinking here at Baz HQ – but then again we’ve come to the subject we have been most fascinated by – sleep disorders. So listen up sleepwalkers, dream fighters, nocturnal twitchers and midnight conversationalists, we might, in our roundabout, theatre way, be about to cure you of your ills. Er, terms and conditions apply. Both of those being it based on this totally not working. Or will it? Are you dreaming right now?! Read on to find out! And again we'll be enlisting the help of our resident brainbox PJ who we are indebted to and who allows us to make silly jokes just a bit more knowledgeable.

No, you’re not dreaming right now, but to discuss properly what’s going on with your flailing limbs we gotta figure out what’s going on in your noggin. The more Baz learns about sleep the more the idea of it and ‘rest’ seem laughable. Your brain is so cogniscient, so on it in ways it’s not when you are awake it might be more specific to call is a ‘refresh’ like when you refresh a webpage – all the info returns, the headlines, links, text, pictures – but it also comes with updates and new information and not always of the happiest sort: moments from your childhood, a scary scenario that never happened but could have: poor souls with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, Depression, Anxiety, and even Narcolepsy can have far reaching effects that all stem from sleep where the saloon of traumatic memories and icky stuff isn’t constrained by waking hours.

So when someone is standing beside the bed, punching at the air, it’s fairly certain they are suffering the adverse affects of PTSD: a mental disorder that occurs after a traumatic event, usually after an attack of some kind. Sufferers can feel constantly on edge in waking hours, but it can profoundly affect sleep, causing insomnia in many cases, but also REM sleep behaviour disorder wherein the nightmares, often linked to the original incident, are acted out. Delayed Sleep Phase disorder and sleep apnea are often common, too. Borderline Personality Disorder, too has roots in sleep, with adults that display symptoms of Fantasy Proneness, spending daytime hours fantasising and daydreaming or playing games excessively, for example, make you especially prone to periods of ‘Derealisation’ – a feeling of detachment from the real world, people and objects too, occasionally suffering from amnesia. These also manifest as sleep disorders where games, fantasies and imagined situations are too, often acted out.

 

Banquo at the Banquet (good name for a band by Theodore Chasseriau, captures the moment Macbeth has his funny turn.

Banquo at the Banquet (good name for a band by Theodore Chasseriau, captures the moment Macbeth has his funny turn.

These examples are extreme and reliant on suffering trauma or excessive, harmful exposure to un-natural concepts and light, but the thought of sleep being so prevalent in some major mental health disorders is disquieting. The comforter and the eye mask aren’t looking so uncool now, huh? Anyway, all this research got us thinking about these disorders in literature, and more importantly, in theatre: pretty evident Macbeth is suffering from a bit of PTSD when he is visited by Banquo in the great feast, and his Lady Macbeth from extreme Dissociation, after trauma and fantasy, and let’s face it, sleep wasn’t exactly restful for poor King Duncan. Oh yeah and Hamlet and his Dad at the battlements. Typical transference in a dream state pertaining to parental issues possibly due to a absent father and a lack of patriarchal order. (I thank you: we're getting pretty good at this now.) People are always having prophecies and dreams in the Ancient Greek times aren’t they? But maybe that had something to do with all the wine and the heat. We don’t know. We are not academics, as we are at pains to point out. We do highly doubt though that A Midsummer Night’s Dream would have been as fun without that pesky Dream Juice.

So to conclude, what have we learned? I mean, really tell us, because there will be a test on it later (joking, of course, but we do hope we planted the seed for a few anxiety dreams in some heads out there) No really: we have learned that there is a definite link between mental illness and disorders that stem from sleep – it really is more vital to our health than we realise. All the more reason to curl up in bed with a book an hour before you usually do, that’s what Baz is gonna do. Rock n Roll. We fancy a bit of Strindberg….a quick dip into Dream Play, perhaps? Conditioning? Us? How dare you. (It is a good read though. With a dram of whiskey. But who’s counting? Well, maybe sheep. Good luck with that)

Thought we'd leave you with something of a palette cleanser after this one, so here is everyone's favourite sit-rom-com The Vicar of Dibley, with Geraldine working through her pre-wedding anxiety with a touch of fantasy proneness and transference. And Sean Bean, which we feel is a must working through all issues. All of them. 

Love and sweet dreams. Hopefully.

Baz x

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Spotlight 2: Rebel, Rebel

The Thin White Duke. Ziggy Stardust. The Goblin King. Davy Jones. He had a knack for personas, did Bowie. Something that Baz shares a common ground with. Yes, welcome to another Spotlight – and it’s another doozy in Bowie (do nothing by halves, us lot) So just bear with us as we attempt to explain his influence and importance in some way no-one else has managed to. We might be here a while.

It’s fair to start with the idea that if you have nothing you have nothing to lose – in a time when it was scandalous to even have long hair as dictated by the war-torn generation that came before it, soldiers’ children were finding new avenues to express themselves, and luckily for them, Ziggy was waiting in the wings. It’s hard for us Baz-istas to comprehend what a massive splash he made in ’73 – someone (“She’s Not Sure if You’re a Boy or a Girl”) appearing on Top of The Pops one evening in a cat suit, full stage make-up and orange hair. Put you off your tea. But intrinsically to his appeal, and especially to Baz, he totally did not break the rules of how to dress, behave, even make music, it’s like he had no clue what they even were. He had nothing, so he had nothing to lose. Zeitgeist, meet Ziggy.

Though it eventually became clear what gender Bowie was, (petition to start one simply called ‘Bowie’) there was, even then, a hovering doubt. Rumours of outrageous behaviour and fluid sexuality maintain to this day that all add to the image that became so important to us as a society and to him as a cultural keystone – image, and performance. Larger than life, fully in character, (though he denies even that description voraciously, amazing, but throw us a bone, Davy) like Richard Burbage taking on Hamlet, Othello and Richard II - a ton of amazing characters under his belt, and utterly loyal to them, until the time came to move on.

Baz's idea of gender is long held in the 'doesn't matter' column and that's why Bowie's importance to Baz is simple: he was a true performer with no time for labels or societal pressures. In our 2013 production of Prophesy, we switched up our casts as we wished: Helen of Troy could be played by a tall man in his early thirties, Paris, the noble prince, set on capturing Helen’s heart? A young woman in her late twenties- why not? As long as bold choices are told with authenticity – something Bowie did naturally - he was an artist in the truest sense of the word, and Baz is inspired. And it's not just us - far from being covered by artists ranging across the board and genre (how can we forget Astronaut Chris Hadfield's, seminal, gravity-less cover) he's inspired art, fashion, and with The Michael Clark Company, stunning dance. It seems as if the artistic community will carry on his legacy and rightly so.

We can maintain his legacy, but  he self-curated his death - he honours his legacy much as he did his different personas – effortlessly. It’s sad that his impending death was the force that brought out an international bestseller at the V&A of his costumes, a new album, and most recently and surprisingly of all – a musical, Lazarus opening in New York late last year: (http://www.davidbowie.com/news/nytw-announces-world-premiere-lazarus-54311)  but with the ever-present possibility of new treats being revealed in months to come, it’s almost as if you could brush over the ‘death’ part. As ever, he keeps us guessing, this impossible dude who simply made good music, dressed well and changed the game – bonus points for being the only musician-turned-actor to survive making a movie (sorry Cher, J-Lo and Madonna) and retain his musical credit. Most importantly, though, he never conformed. Baz has something in common with that too.

If we may: Lorde’s stunning performance with Bowie’s band at the Brit Awards earlier this year recaptured a bit of the presence with a bit of herself thrown in - in deference to a true tribute, this is how it’s done. The future is looking bright. Seriously, we can't stop watching it.

You like dancing and you look divine,

Baz x

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