All My Sleep and Waking, written by Mary Rachel Brown, directed by Dino Dimitriadis and presented by Apocalypse Theatre, is currently playing Newtown’s Old 505 Theatre.
The piece tells the story of a man nearing the end of his life. His three children – Anne, Maria and Peter – each has had starkly different experiences of the same man.
Brown describes All My Sleep and Waking as dealing with “the tricky business of forgiveness and reconciling with the past”.
“I took on this subject matter after spending a few days in a deceased relative’s house,” she says. “I sat in on several conversations about what should be in this person’s eulogy. The different points of view were staggering, it was hard to believe people were talking about the same person. I found this intriguing, endearing and disturbing all at the same time. The contradictory experiences siblings can have of their parents is very fertile ground for a writer. Often when a death occurs, there is an unspoken pressure to reconcile different experiences, to agree and settle on an exactness of who the person was. This can be an impossible task for some families.
“The play is fiction, a mixed bag of borrowed and imagined, nevertheless, the work has lots of ticks and quirks that are drawn from personal experience. At its heart, the play is about love and the enduring legacy it carries when you lose a parent.”
Brown says the play has an “every family effect”.
“Every family struggles with different versions of events. The notion of truth is very subjective when it comes to family,” she says.
Brown also says many who attended the original production relayed having seen a lot of their own families in the play.
“They were strangely comforted by this,” she adds. “So, hopefully, the play does what good theatre should do – make us feel less alone. If you think your family is weird, come and see the play, people say it helps, especially in the lead up to Christmas where family is compulsory for many people.”
Brown believes the play is pertinent at this moment in time.
“Our awareness of mental health issues has come into sharper focus,” she says. “Without giving too much away, All my sleep and waking could be interpreted as an allegory for what happens when stigma overrides reaching out for help.”
Actor Alex Beauman recalls seeing another of Brown’s plays in recent years.
“I saw The Dapto Chaser a few years back and was obsessed,” Beauman says. “So getting the chance to work closely with Mary has been tremendously exciting.”
He talks about his role in the show.
“I play Josh who has been tasked by his mum, Anne, to help clean her father’s flat as he enters the final days of his life,” Beauman says. “It is in this flat that a bewildered Josh bears witness to the opening of old wounds as his mum rips into his aunt and uncle. As a result, Josh desperately attempts to find ways to resolve this hurt between his mother and her siblings. He’s a wise, compassionate soul, and it’s been exciting to explore his temperament.
“What has been interesting for me in exploring the role of Josh is looking at how younger generations reconcile emotional damage that affect their elders. How much can a teenager intervene in family drama that involves decade-old wounds?”
Being cast in this production has afforded Beauman the chance to work with director Dino Dimitriadis for the first time. He says he’s long been a fan of Dimitriadis’ work.
“Finally getting to work with him has been a dream,” he says. “He is truly an actor’s director, and his work ethic is remarkable.”
Beauman says his hope is that this production will encourage those who attend to enter the “sometimes-fraught” Christmas period with “a greater sense of compassion and openness towards family”.
“The time we have together is finite, and resentment is a poison,” he says. “Hopefully this play is a reminder that sometimes it is healing to let go of the past.”
And what does Brown hope audiences take away from their experience seeing All My Sleep and Waking?
“Proof! Scientific and absolute proof that you do not choose your parents. Comfort. Every family has strange rusted on habits. You are not alone.”
ALL MY SLEEP AND WAKING – SEASON DETAILS
Performance Dates: Playing now until 22 December 2018
Performance Times: Tuesday – Saturday 8pm
Venue: Old 505 Theatre (5 Eliza Street, Newtown)
Tickets: Bookings at old505theatre.com