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Published 30 June 2011

Sleep and I have not always been good friends. While never a full-blown insomniac, long days have passed where fitful bursts of sleep have had to sustain me and the hours of possible sleep left before I have to rise have been anxiously counted like sheep.

So the chance to spend the night in the Barbican Pit at a sleepover for 50 filled me not only with intrigue but with a fair bit of horror as well. Surrounded by a sea of single, double and triple beds, however, any trepidation can be checked in with your luggage as the delightfully twee Lullaby pulls you into its weird and wonderful world of dancing octopuses, friendly moons and melancholy storytelling.

After changing into your pyjamas – the Barbican’s backstage dressing rooms double up as communal changing areas – and helping yourself to a herbal tea or hot chocolate, you are allowed to sink back into your sumptuously comfortable bed and watch as little or as much of the show as you like before turning over and falling asleep – something that still feels bizarrely rude even in such an unconventional theatre setting.

The cast of four spin around hypnotically under dimmed lights in sequined green costumes, read aloud from a bedtime storybook, perform surreal magic tricks, sing lullabies and slowly pace around the stage dresses as oversized, pillow-like animals. Everything is designed to make you feel less connected to the waking world and ready for a snooze; even a poetic lecture about the planets’ orbits softly serenades you.

All this is followed by a communal sleep before being woken by a unique dawn chorus and a breakfast feast. Loving care is added to every stage with ear plugs and beautifully bottled water by each cosy bedside, pyjama wearing staff on hand to lead you to the bathroom in the labyrinth-like Barbican after lights out and even a candlelit cupcake for a woman celebrating her birthday.

But the big question is, did I sleep? I would love to say that the last thing I remember is the cloud covered elephant tipping his top hat to me before I drifted off into a peaceful night’s slumber, but alas Duckie’s magic did not work for me. But listening to the soundtrack of snores that accompanied my night at the Barbican Pit, for many others, clearly it did.



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