Dreams In White | Griffin TheatreLeft – Andrew McFarlane and Sara West. Cover – Lucy Bell, Sara West and Andrew McFarlane. Photos – Brett Boardman

Michael Devine
is living many lives. He is a husband. He is a father. He is a wealthy property broker. He is an adulterer. He is someone who advertises in magazines for sex. He has two phones. He has two names. He is like the grapefruit with sugar of which he is so fond – at once sweet, at once sour, at once both, and at once neither.

Dreams in White is an exploration of secrecy, of fantasy, of performance. When you have a secret – when you are lying, when you are performing – what is real? When are you telling the truth? How do you know if you are telling the truth? When you have two lives, do you even know what truth is any more?

Duncan Graham’s play is searing and complex. It is not a murder mystery in the traditional sense, though it does contain a murder and there is certainly a mystery. We know who has killed Michael Devine (who also goes by the name of Ray Wimple, ably played by Andrew McFarlane), but what we do not know is why. The show is not chronological, and we try to work it out piece by agonising piece, trying to reconcile the loving father we see counselling his teenage daughter (Sara West) about her love life with the sleazy property broker who hits on the unhappily married Julia (Lucy Bell), and wondering again why Gary (Steve Rodgers) and Paula (Mandy McElhinney) would have been driven to kill him. Michael’s psyche is endlessly unpeeled, identity after identity revealed, and we wonder whether there is any part of him that is real, any part that is not a secret from someone.

The five actors in this show play several different roles each (apt, in a show which focuses so much on performativity and identity and truth), and it is difficult to discern who is who at the beginning. As the show unravels, however, and we learn more and more about the people Michael’s multiplicity has touched, it becomes both easier to tell and less important. He is the locus from which secrecy spreads. His daughter does not want to tell him about her sex life (or lack thereof) because he is her father. He forces the knowledge that she has been thinking about other men from Julia. His wife Anne (also Lucy Bell) is forced into therapy, panicked by the fact that she had played the devoted wife in their marriage but he had been doubling roles. And most potently, his death forces Gary and Paula to conceal the horrifying violence and passion of which they are capable.

Dreams in White is such a clever show. It is intense and incredibly gripping. It is a little confusing initially, but it soon becomes incredibly hard to look away. While Michael’s multiple personalities arguably drive the show, it exposes duplicity in all of the other characters as well. “I am not what I am,” one character says, recalling Shakespeare’s Iago. No one is. Even the most honest characters are performing. It is a riveting psychological mystery, a whydunnit instead of a whodunnit, featuring great performances, taut direction, and some truly remarkable writing.

Griffin Theatre presents
Dreams in White
by Duncan Graham

Venue: SBW Stables Theatre | 10 Nimrod Street, Kings Cross NSW
Dates: 8 February - 23 March 2013
Tickets: $49 – $32
Bookings: www.griffintheatre.com.au

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