Natalie Kimmerling walks tall in the latest Sleepless Theatre production due to play in the Edinburgh Fringe

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Sleepless Theatre Company are gaining a name for innovative theatre that tackles big subjects. Their latest production ‘Nine Foot Nine’ was shortlisted for the 2018 LET Award, and had a 5 minute showcase at the Royal Court as part of their International Women’s Day programme. Colin Hambrook talked to disabled actress Natalie Kimmerling who plays Sophie in the play about her experience.

Photo of young female actress standing on stage

Natalie Kimmerling (Sophie) in Nine Foot Nine. Photo by Katie Edwards

Sleepless specialise in inclusive theatre working with performers and creatives who identify as D/deaf or Disabled. Natalie Kimmerling has learnt to take her chosen career path one day at a time, having got into the industry after doing a couple of short courses in acting for film and then deciding to audition for drama school.

“Growing up, I didn’t have many opportunities to participate in shows or go to the theatre, so was originally interested in the film and TV side of the industry. It wasn’t until I went to Mountview theatre school in London that I discovered theatre properly and I immediately fell in love with it.”

“I’ve only been acting professionally for a year and it has been challenging during the quiet months, but it’s immensely rewarding to work in my chosen field with people who share similar interests.”

“I got the part of Sophie in Nine Foot Nine after an audition set up by my agent. It has been wonderful working with Sleepless as the entire cast and crew have collaborated together, building on each other’s ideas, to bring this piece to life. Working in this way has helped me develop as an actor, enabling me to understand the world of the play more and to find more depth to my character.”

Nine Foot Nine examines the changing labels of ‘masculine’ and ‘feminine’ and a world where the gender balance is forever altered, imaging a world in which a vast proportion of all the women in the world start to grow – centimetre by centimetre, foot by foot, with science powerless to stop them.

“Sophie has a complicated reaction to the growth; she longs to grow, to ‘sprout’ because she believes this will invite her mother to see her as worthy enough to come back into her life. This longing has embedded a deep fear in Sophie that she might not grow and be left behind in this changing world.”

“What I find interesting about playing Sophie is that she is constantly overcoming obstacles. As a teenager, her emotions are raw, and yet she tries to hide these in front of the people she cares about so as not to feel vulnerable. It’s been a joy exploring her physical and emotional journey as she grows older and taller throughout the progression of the play.”

The awareness that women are now physically more powerful than men sends shockwaves through society, fracturing age-old assumptions and prejudices. How do political regimes react? What will happen to industry, media, families, sex? And, more importantly, what comes next?

Nine Foot Nine has just completed a run at the Bunker Theatre in London as part their Breaking Out season and is due to transfer to the Edinburgh Fringe, playing the Assembly Rooms from 2nd-25th August.

As well as taking on challenging subjects, Sleepless’ ethos is to offer an inclusive, accessible environment. In this vein, the playwright Alex Wood and the director Helena Jackson have worked closely with Alexandra James who plays Cara on the use of BSL, altering certain words or phrases to make it easier for her to sign and speak simultaneously. Sleepless have also added captions to the show to enable any hard of hearing audience members to watch the play without feeling like they might be missing parts of it.

Natalie Kimmerling (Sophie) in Nine Foot Nine. Photo by Katie Edwards

Nine Foot Nine has just completed a run at the Bunker Theatre in London as part their Breaking Out season and is due to transfer to the Edinburgh Fringe, playing the Assembly Rooms from 2nd-25th August. For more details please visit the company website www.sleeplesstheatre.com or go to the Assembly Rooms for booking information.