A Dream of Dying

It seems almost almost impossible that a man could go through his life and when his naked body is washed up on a shore in Ireland no one knows who he is. In A Dream of Dying author Treasa Nealon breathes life back into him, giving him a family and a story.

An interesting demonstration of the art of monologue and the skills it requires and for that it makes for fifty minutes of curious exploration.

The police managed to identify a series of bizarre events that occurred during the final days of his life. CCTV footage and interviews with local residents revealed he had bought envelopes that were never posted, had given fake addresses to hotels in the alias of Peter Bergmann, where a German-sounding accent was detected, and disposed of his belongings in several waste bins around the seaside town of Sligo. There were some more details of a bus journey he took from Derry, but to this day he has never been identified.

The surprise opening leads into a series of events in which he recalls his past and expresses his hopes for the future. He starts with an early infatuation, telling of Marie, the waitress in the coffee shop with whom he has non-conversations over his nervously placed order. Although he resolves to ask her out his inherent insecurity is evident and it stays with him throughout the play. The prospect of a relationship leads him into a series of imaginings of how he would like his future to pan out. It is very traditional. He wishes to study, get a job, be married and have children who would go on to give him grandchildren. Conversely he thinks he might live a life of concealed identity, unknown to anyone.

This dream is like the one his father probably had but we are told he gave up on, overrun by circumstances. Peter wants something different. “Life happens but you can control it,” he says, but there are early signs of impending doom. He contemplates looking back and wondering where it all went wrong. His obsession with death and dying is soon revealed and even the circumstances of that he plans.

How close any of this is to what the mystery man actually did or wanted out of life we shall never know, but it gives Lawrence Boothman the opportunity to portray a complex, muddled character and use his skill with voices to create the hypothetical people who appear in Peter’s life. He successfully breaks up the dominating sadness and loneliness of the tale with humorous incidents and variations in pace that highlight the mood changes of the man himself. The spartan set gives him space to move around and create locations aided by props integrated into the story.

A Dream of Dying tells a curious story that flits at times confusingly from the the world of reality to conjecture and dreams, interspersed with the occasional poem. Boothman’s performance is an interesting demonstration of the art of monologue and the skills it requires and for that it makes for fifty minutes of curious exploration. 

Reviews by Richard Beck

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Performances

Location

The Blurb

A Dream of Dying centres on the unbelievable real life tale of a man who has never been identified. Using CCTV footage and interviews with local residents, the police pieced together a bizarre story of his final hours; buying envelopes that were never posted, giving fake addresses to hotels, disposing of his worldly belongings across various waste bins dotted across the small seaside town of Sligo in Ireland. When the body washed ashore, a long exploration began to attempt to identify the stranger – an investigation that remains unsolved.