Why do we need sleep? What happens when we go without it? These were the questions asked by Oxford scientists and Oxford’s Mandala Theatre Company when they created Small Hours for IF Oxford, the science and ideas festival.

Running all this week from Monday 19 – Saturday 25 October, director Yasmin Sidwha said: This online play speaks to so many of us, living through these strange Covid times – the anxiety people are feeling, the lack of sleep and what this does to us.

“It’s also about the relationships we have built online and our need for human connection. This is a story of our time.”

Ava Wong Davies wrote the ambitious story, commissioned by Oxford Playhouse, about four people disconnected by Covid and challenged by sleeplessness has been made usingscientific advice from the University of Oxford Sleep & Circadian Neuroscience Institute.

Filmed across Europe over two days, it will be streamed to audiences in their homes, with a post-show Q&A on Sunday 25 October.

Yasmin added:This project has come out of the Covid-19 experience and has been filmed by young people across Europe, from Amsterdam to Germany and of course Oxford and then edited by filmmaker Ben Johnston. It expresses what so many young people have felt but maybe not had a chance to say.”

Dr Rachel Sharman, Postdoctoral Researcher, Sleep & Circadian Neuroscience Institute, University of Oxford said: Sleep is fundamental for both our physical and mental health.

“The occasional, single night of poor sleep is not uncommon, particularly in times of stress, however when sleep problems become more persistent or when we simply don’t make time for sleep, it can impact our work/education, our social life, and our wellbeing.

“This digital play highlights some of these issues with a contemporary and creative twist. We want more people to talk about their sleep and this collaboration with IF Oxford, Mandala Theatre and the Oxford Playhouse puts sleep centre stage

Oxford Playhouse has commissioned six world premieres during lockdown including Small World, which will be showcased this autumn, inviting audiences to experience theatre in a new way.  Other commissions include:

Great Big Story Mash Up, (24 – 28 October), Do You Love Me Yet?, (2-4, 7 November),  Under the Mask, (14 & 15 November), Take Up Space – by Evolve artist and movement director Jenni Jackson, (3 November – 14 December) and Oxford Winter Light Festival mobile installation by local artist Nor (20 – 22 November)

To book tickets go to www.oxfordplayhouse.com

IF Oxford runs until October 31 with hundreds of free events to enjoy. For more information go to https://if-oxford.com/events/

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