Inspired by events surrounding the disappearance and murder of multi-millionaire Herman Rockefeller in 2010, DREAMS IN WHITE is a powerful and emotionally draining new play by Duncan Graham that’s anchored by the murder of an obnoxious swinger Ray Wimple aka Michael Devine, played by Andrew McFarlane.
The play’s tangled emotional relationships are laid bare by director Tanya Goldberg and highlighted by Teresa Negroponte’s minimalist yet adaptable set, although it takes a while for the relevance of at least one scene to be made clear — especially given most of the cast play more than one role. The result though is the laying bare of the cast’s most intimate bonds, especially that between Michael Devine (the character’s real name) and his 18-year-old Amy (Sara West), his daughter by Anne Devine (Lucy Bell).
In their first scene, while eating a bowl of grapefruit with sugar at home, Michael confronts spiky tomboyish Amy over an explicit photo of her that he discovered on his computer and she becomes by turns argumentative, witty and manipulative in the way that only precocious teenagers can be. In a later scene with her father Amy shows the bewildered little girl that she still is, bringing out Michael’s tender side. West plays both roles to perfection.
We’ve earlier seen a belligerent and unwelcome Michael turn up at the shabby house of Gary and Paula Anderson (Steve Rodgers and Mandy McElhinney) demanding sex, and soon realise that this is where he came to a sticky end. His demise for most of the play is all the more potent by being unseen; and the presence of this dark deed hangs over the rest of the play, a wet recently washed hammer being a gruesome-enough symbol.
The entire cast is superb, especially Sara West, but Andrew McFarlane as Michael Devine almost supernaturally exudes sleaze from every pore, even when Devine tries to be at his most urbane and professional as a wealthy businessman.
We do see the actual murder right at the end of the play, and these violent, harrowing — almost unwatchable scenes – complete with obscene sexual taunts by Michael (including the reason why he favours grapefruit and sugar) initially appear unnecessary. But once the shock subsides, the rest of the play is thrown into even starker relief, its explosive intensity a testament to the corrupting power of the most powerful primitive urges when they are unshackled from their moral restraints.
Griffin Theatre Company’s season of DREAMS IN WHITE plays from 8 February to 23 March at the SBW Stables Theatre, Kings Cross.