A Dream of Dying, Edinburgh Festival Fringe

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On 16th June 2009, the body of a man was found dead on a beach near Sligo, Ireland. He had given his name as Peter Bergmann at his hotel, but postmortem investigations determined that was an alias. In the days running up to his death, CCTV recorded the man methodically moving around Sligo but taking advantage of cameras’ blind spots, he disposed of all items that could possibly be used to identify him. Monologue A Dream of Dying creates a young man who plans such a death in his future in an attempt to justify why Bergmann might have died the way he did. This quiet, reflective piece may not be the most exciting theatre at the fringe, but its subject matter is a sensitive look at life’s inevitability and the desire to control these final moments.

Lawrence Boothman embodies the fictionalised Bergmann, his friends and family from childhood through to recent graduate on the cusp of the rest of his life. As he contemplates what life will bring him – career, wife, children, grandchildren – he expresses the lingering fear that it could all go wrong. In either case, because life is so unpredictable despite the best laid plans, he is able to plan his death with mechanical precision. The calm rationale is both understandable and unsettling.

Boothman attacks the role with vigour, perhaps too much so in transitions that become rushed. Treasa Nealon’s text follows a natural narrative progression and Boothman tells it with instinct for its rises and falls, lingering over moments of tenderness and celebrating milestones. There’s an anti-theatricality to the piece, but it’s a good story well told.

Peter Bergmann’s true identity was never discovered. His remains evidenced late stage prostate and bone cancer so it is easy to draw conclusions as to why Bergmann chose to end his life. The saddest thing to consider is that whilst he worked hard to make himself unidentifiable, there may have been no one to look for him when he disappeared. A Dream of Dying, though not particularly theatrical, feels like a fitting homage to those that have died unknown and unclaimed the world over.

A Dream of Dying runs through 27th August.

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