The Pirahã was and remains a distant tribe in the Amazonian jungle where their language has never been understood by someone outside of their tribe, but when Daniel Everett, a linguist and missionary is ordered to venture out to the jungle where he has to learn their language and revert their religion to Christianity. The Park Theatre’s production of Sebastian Armesto and Dudley Hinton’s, ‘Don’t Sleep There Are Snakes’ was such a monotonous and desensitising production that did not have any promise in the slightest.
‘Don’t Sleep There Are Snakes’ is obviously set in the Amazonian jungle where we are introduced tp Daniel Everett who is sent to a really off the beaten track part of Brazil but along the way he goes through a journey of self-evaluation where instead of converting the Pirahã tribe to Christianity, he wants to see how the tribe perceive their language as in actual fact a lack of grammar as their need for vocabulary is rather limited. Over the course of the performance, we learn how Dan has to adapt to the Pirahã environment and why language is different to other cultures that does not fit to the “norm”, on the contrary, throughout, you can see that the tribe are keen to learn something new but it does take some time for the information to pass through their brains due to the fact they have no notions of what numbers are. It’s blatantly obvious that Dan has a battle on his hands as his boss is pressurising him for results, yet, it doesn’t seem to be going in the way that she is hoping for as progress is not on the horizon. Problems arise in this journey for Dan as when he and the rest of the Pirahã are asleep one member of the tribe has a nightmare but because of the lack of vocabulary, they think that snakes are fighting them; nonetheless, Dan is adamant that it is a dream and that snakes are not hurting them. Dan begins to fully appreciate what the Pirahã have to offer the world and this is reciprocated by the tribe themselves and is now welcome with open arms. However, when his boss orders him to return home as his mission has been unsuccessful in their viewpoint and sadly for Dan who really doesn’t want to go decides to record a farewell message to his newly found friends. At the finale, the Pirahã tribe listen to Dan’s goodbye recording, and understandably they are unaware to what he is actually saying which is quite a sad moment as he hasn’t had the opportunity to tell them that he has had to leave them. Armesto and Hinton’s narrative is disappointing as the premise at first proves a lot of promise, but the constant changes of characters does alter my liking of the plot as there is only one justifiable character and the themes of language is lost due to it.
One found the performances by the company of, ‘Don’t Sleep There Are Snakes’ were substandard and slightly ghastly as the ensemble of, Christopher Doyle, Rachel Handshaw, Yuriri Naka, Emily Pennant-Rea and Clifford Samuel makes a discombobulated effort in the transitions of their characters do not work and to be honest pretty rubbish. Mark Arends is conventional as missionary, Dan Everett; specifically how he begins his journey with one goal, on the other hand, he changes his opinion where he stands up to his boss for not having any level of humanity and slams her for her blinkered approach to the work that they have to undertake.
Sebastian Armesto, Hannah Emanuel and Dudley Hinton’s direction is pretty transparent here as the whole show appears to be quite a jumbled tale of Daniel Everett’s journey to the Pirahã tribe, furthermore, the portrayals of the characters left a lot to be looked-for and I became bored for the most part of the 90 minute performance. The design was minimal and lacklustre as there was not one single redeeming feature because I was not engrossed into the Amazonian landscape and the other locations that are present in the show and this is rather inadequate for a production at the Park Theatre. Overall, the experience of, ‘Don’t Sleep There Are Snakes’ was not a very enjoyable play and this is quite surprising for a performance that has been created by, ‘simple8’ and I must admit I wanted to leave.