For the story of a suicide, this play is curiously hopeful, charming and beautifully executed by an able Lawrence Boothman.
All that’s actually known about Peter Bergmann is that he washed up on a beach in Sligo, Ireland in June 2009. CCTV footage helped the police retrace the steps he took on his last few days as a visitor to the town. While some of the details retrieved are intriguing on discovery – Bergmann methodically deposited the last of his personal possessions in bins around the town – his intentions and state of mind of cannot ever be known, and after all these years, he remains unidentified (“Peter Bergmann” was an alias used by the man). Treasa Nealon’s sensitive and at times humorous script gives Bergmann a possible backstory.
Boothman achieves a heck of a lot in an hour, and on a relatively small stage. The show has been meticulously put together, and Boothman is painstaking in his delivery of this gift of a story, breathing life into the otherwise confusing details reported. In laying a row of artefacts, to symbolise what might have been meant for the eight envelopes with postage stamps the man bought in his last days yet never sent, the events of a life are itemised.
Boothman has the most expressive face, which he uses to full effect, easily moving through a range of characters Bergmann might have encountered in his life. As narrator, his accent is pronounced, adding to how watchable and engaging he is in weaving this story on stage. Particularly memorable is his opening, when he conjures a character with hopes and dreams he intends to carry out – refusing to accept that his life will be determined by anyone but himself. And perhaps chillingly, this choice to be in control is reflected in the careful execution of his own death.
In Boothman’s hands, the mystery at the centre of the story unfolds with heart. And in its careful evocation of a life, the show is far from depressing – although no secret is made about the character’s ultimate end.
It’s one of the best solo shows I’ve seen this Fringe, and Boothman deserves credit for his obvious commitment to both the story and his art.