Playbill Pick: Awake and Narcoleptic With Sarah Albritton at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe
This charming and funny solo show is about navigating life with an invisible disability.
The Edinburgh Festival Fringe is the biggest arts festival in the world, with nearly 3,500 shows. This year, Playbill is in Edinburgh for the entire month in August for the festival and we’re taking you with us. Follow along as we cover every single aspect of the Fringe, aka our real-life Brigadoon!
As part of our Edinburgh Fringe coverage, Playbill is seeing a whole lotta shows—and we're sharing which ones you absolutely must see if you're only at the Fringe for a short amount of time. Consider these Playbill Picks a friendly, opinionated guide as you try to choose a show at the festival.
There are some theatre shows that lull you to sleep. While at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe, I've spotted a number of people taking a nap in the dark (no doubt helped by the stuffy heat in some venues). But Awake and Narcoleptic with Sarah Albritton won't make you fall asleep—it'll make you want to sit up and pay attention. Which is somewhat ironic because its storyteller, Albritton, has been known to randomly fall asleep in public.
In this solo show, Albritton, tells the audience about what it's like living with narcolepsy. And right off the bat, the laugh lines come fast and furious. “It's a sleeping disorder, not to be confused with nymphomania,” Albritton tells us at the top of the show.
Clad in pajamas and fuzzy slippers, with the help of a projection screen, Albritton walks us through how she was first diagnosed with narcolepsy (which saw her sleeping up to 16 hours a day), how she eventually found a way to manage her condition, and how many people disbelieve her when she tells them about her condition—an anecdote about a teacher spraying her with water to get her to wake up caused gasps in the audience.
But Albritton is clear in why she's telling her story: she is not setting out to shame people who do not have disabilities or people who ask her ignorant questions about her condition. Albritton provides an honest look at what living with an invisible disability is like—the struggle to get the right diagnosis, the struggle to find the right medicine that works, and the struggle to find people who will accept you and not minimize your condition.
And throughout, it's laced by Albritton's whip-smart humor, which left the audience guffawing in many places. When describing what kind of medicine she takes to manage her narcolepsy, she says it's a form of GHB, which is also used as a date-rape drug. “I'm the only female comedian who would feel comfortable opening for Bill Cosby.” That line made me laugh and groan at the same time.
The show is constructed and told so well that it would be at home on a Netflix special or in a larger theatre. Albritton is a naturally charming and engaging performer. She has a relatability that holds your attention and makes you want to root for her—you want her to get a happy ending (or at least affordable health insurance that will cover her medicine). The audience was thoroughly won over by Albritton's story. When she said, “I was afraid nobody would love me,” a man in the house responded, “We love you!” And we all applauded.
Throughout, Albritton is making a plea for empathy—that just because someone may look OK on the surface doesn't mean they're not secretly struggling. In a time when sarcasm and negativity are the primary currency, Awake and Narcoleptic is a wonderful balm of a show that will leave you feeling more positive and compassionate. You also will learn more about a rare medical condition which, when you have someone as delightful as Albritton relaying that information to you, it's wonderful sugar that makes the medicine go down.
Awake and Narcoleptic with Sarah Albritton plays the Space at Surgeons Hall, Haldane Theatre until August 26. Get tickets here.