Edinburgh Fringe 2010
This new play by the promising young Three’s Company, in a production fluidly directed by James Farrell, explores a dream expert’s attempts to better understand himself through his dreams, memories and partners. Why we dream the things we do is an intrinsically interesting subject and Tom Crawshaw’s writing is subtle and thoughtful even if the play’s narrative strands don’t quite sustain the attention. Like dreams, though, the play can be hard to really engage with.
Central character James is interviewed by an old university friend David (the wryly amusing Ben Hadley) for a job doing experiments into lucid dreaming, a subject on which he is apparently an expert. His friend offers him the job on the spot, but James then realizes that he has dreamt the offer while David was consulting with his colleagues. At this point it becomes clear that moving in and out of his dreams, not knowing which is reality and which isn’t, is the main traffic of our stage and indeed one of the themes of the play. In the course of his dreams he returns to his childhood playing with his long-time friend Holly (charismatic Ashlea Kaye), a school project and various other moments in his life. He has an anxiety dream about being in a TV studio and forgetting his lines while Queen perform Bohemian Rhapsody. And so on.
Reverie spends time making sure we’re clear what’s a dream and what isn’t: there are lots of “this is a dream” and “none of this is real” type lines which one suspects a clearer narrative matched with an imaginative production could have rendered superfluous. Dreams are generally about what we see, not what we say- the same is true of plays, yet hear most of James’ character development comes from his own mouth rather than anything we can observe for ourselves. More crucially, as the play is a character study more than a story piece, James’ character is pursued to the exclusion of the others, who are largely functions of his rather than people with the capacity to change or evolve in their own right.
Farrell’s production on a tiny stage makes efficient use of Alison Neighbour’s clever design, although more use of sound to evoke a mood and aid the dream-like quality implied by the writing might have helped give the piece a more compelling dramatic texture.
Praise to Crawshaw for tackling an interesting subject and for his deft handling of an episodic structure. But it’s character and plot that make a good play and one feels this is really a one-man character study performed by a cast of five. Consequently it is not as deep an exploration of sleep as it is probably intended to be. Like most dreams, it’s a pleasant experience but not one that lingers long in the memory.