Welcome To My Nightmare

Ian Smith, Ange Lavoipierre and Emma Lister reveal their Fringe-inspired stress dreams, from forgotten lines to being trapped in a surreal stage

feature (edinburgh) | Read in About 4 minutes
33845 large
Ian Smith
Photo by Matt Stronge
Published 04 Aug 2023

Ian Smith is bone-grindingly stressed out.

After a routine appointment with his dentist, Smith was reprimanded for "about 10 minutes" for the damage he was doing gnashing his teeth at night. The mouth guard he now wears has been little defence against his bruxism, with him finding it "on the other side of the bedroom" on waking. He now brings Crushing to Monkey Barrel about his various (failed) attempts to lower his stress levels, including hypnotism ("I kept reading about it in the hope I'd start believing in it"), a floatation tank ("I rubbed my eyes in the salt water") and a trip to Slovakia to crush vehicles. The latter was the most effective.

Grinding his teeth isn't his only problem at night. Smith has been coming to Edinburgh for over a decade and is haunted by the same stress dream. He tells us: "Every year as Fringe previews start, I have the same dream – I’ll be in a green room, or sat in the seats of an empty theatre when someone will come over to me and say something like, 'big opening tonight, are you excited?'

"I have no idea what they’re talking about, but I’m filled with a sudden dread which tells me, I’m in a play. A play I have no memory of being involved in and no idea what my role is at all! The dream then becomes me desperately trying to convince this person I don’t know any of the lines or even what the play is about and that I can’t possibly do the show – to which they repeatedly laugh as if I’m making a joke or being modest. I tell them that I don’t know what my costume is, I don’t understand the scenery and that I can’t remember my opening line. The dream ends with me, stag the side of the stage, wearing clothes I don’t understand the significance of… the play starts, and I wake up. I never get to experience attempting to improvise my way through an entire play, but maybe one day I will."

Ange Lavoipierre, image courtesy of Impressive PR

Ange Lavoipierre arrives at Underbelly with Your Mother Chucks Rocks and Shells. The show charts the comedian's insomnia, obsession with sleep aids and is inspried by The Exorcist. She's managed to turn the tables on her 'busy brain', learning to gain some control over her imagination through lucid dreaming – where she flies over Kakadu, "a very famous national park in the northern territory of Australia. It's like this blend of desert and lush wildlife, wetlands and red dirt."

Alas, when the Fringe comes round, she still has a double header of stress dreams: "So there's two dreams, two recurring dreams that I have. One is that I realise that I have to do a show – like this moment – and I realise that I'm at least 300 kilometres from where I need to be. Rather than accept that, I go, 'Oh, obviously I'll try to get to the show.' It's like this awful reality TV scenario where I'm trying to get on a train and waving money at cars, like, 'I have so much money! Please?!' I never stop panicking, but it never gets to showtime.

"The other one is where I've arranged to do a show. I get up and I realise that I haven't written the show. In that instance I just riff – but I can't tell if it's going terribly or if it's the best show of my life. It's incredibly ambiguous and I sort of come off stage and I go, 'Well, I did it!'

Insomniac's Fable, photo by Patrick Baldwin

Insomniac's Fable's is a dance show with ballet, juggling and woodcut images, drawing inspiration from films such as Vertigo and Inception.

It explores the dusky liminal space between perception and reality. At night, it's been playing on director Emma Lister's mind. She says: "In our show, which involves several dreamscapes, there are certainly sections that I'd rather dream about more than others! I have had a dream recently that I'm caught behind the gauze that we use in the show – it's moved with a pulley system by the performers – but in my dream I can't get out from behind it. I can see and hear the show happening through the diaphanous material, but can't get past it. This is especially funny as I'm the director, not a performer in the show, so I shouldn't even be on stage!"