There is no rest for the pious, especially when your church is empty of worshippers. When he opens up his small, provincial church one Sunday, a priest is tormented by a faulty alarm system, he can’t get his keys to work and, as if that weren’t enough, a scoreboard of churchgoers reveals that nobody has come in a long time. All this would be sad in a more dramatic, straight play. But in the hands of The Krumple – Oda K. Nyfløtt, Jon Levin, Vincent Vernerie and Jo Even Bjørke – Go To Sleep, Goddamnit! is a humorous, visual marvel. The show is completely written, designed, directed and performed by the ensemble, who don’t speak and wear full masks that wrap around their entire heads.
The masks are fairly abstract and the effect of watching the actors perform the show entirely without speaking is pretty surreal, which is aided by the fact that some of the costumes are padded to exaggerate shape. But the effect is not so abstract that you can’t make out an actual face. In fact, each mask brilliantly conveys a different character without ever changing expressions – the surly priest, the sweet young nun, the stern older nun, the trouble-making nun, the happy-go-lucky janitor and the blind organist. The masks are so well made for their characters that no matter what situation they are in, their faces make sense.
The angular, wood-paneled set also plays a role in telling the story. It contains a few nice surprises, such as a small latch window through which a series of packages enter, and a makeshift bed on which the priest fails to fall asleep. A particularly funny bit involving a broken crucifix is brought to a poignant, if somewhat mystifying, conclusion. There is also a clever miniature of the priest in puppet form, as well as other puppets that pop up out of the set. Some amusing audio gags propel the story as well, including the alarm system that nobody can seem to turn off on the first try, and a computer automated voice on Amazon that the two young nuns inadvertently activate.
Go To Sleep, Goddamnit! is worth seeing for the mask work alone. These are wonderful creations that are really brought to life by the artists inside them. It’s always fascinating when an entire story is conveyed just through movement and mask. Despite the religious setting and subject, the story can really be about any business that has come on hard times and is having difficulty staying afloat. I mean, can the priest really be blamed for not sleeping well?