Skip to main content

In My Father's Words

Tron Theatre, Glasgow
Four stars
When the increasingly senile old man at the heart of Justin Young's
moving, Toronto-set new play declares to his estranged son in Gaelic
that “We will go fishing,” the initial reaction is one of
incomprehension. By the end of Philip Howard's elegiac production for
Dundee Rep, however, Don has built a bridge, not just with his classics
lecturer son, Louis, who he hasn't seen for fifteen years, but with
Flora, the Gaelic-speaking carer Don hires so he can get on with his
self-absorbed and  long overdue translation of Homer.

Inspired by an Iain Crichton Smith's poem and set in a pre-laptop,
pre-Google early 1990s, what at first looks like a quiet play about
fathers, sons, and everyday dysfunction opens itself out to grander
themes of odyssey, exile and the gulf that can open up among families
when separated by war. Such  classical allusions never lose sight of
the basic human cost of this absence. With Lewis Howden's Louis the
epitome of world-weary resentment, Don's own pains become tellingly
clear through Angus Peter Campbell's vivid and understated portrayal.
It is Flora's disruptive appearance, played with gusto by Muireann
Kelly, that opens up both men enough to confront their troubled pasts.

While played primarily in English, Iain Finlay Macleod's Gaelic
translations projected onto screens on a twin-tiered wood-lined set
become key to the play's over-riding lyricism. Jon Beales' languid
score adds to the mood of poignancy and warmth. As Louis comes back to
life even as his father fades, their accidental quest for mutual
understanding reveals a shared history that is both intimate and epic
in its reach for roots and reconciliation.

The Herald, June 23rd 2014


ends

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

The Maids

Dundee Rep

Two sisters sit in glass cases either side of the stage at the start of Eve Jamieson's production of Jean Genet's nasty little study of warped aspiration and abuse of power. Bathed in red light, the women look like artefacts in some cheap thrill waxworks horror-show, or else exhibits in a human zoo. Either way, they are both trapped, immortalised in a freak-show possibly of their own making.

Once the sisters come to life and drape themselves in the sumptuous bedroom of their absent mistress, they raid her bulging wardrobe to try on otherwise untouchable glad-rags and jewellery. As they do, the grotesque parody of the high-life they aspire to turns uglier by the second. When the Mistress returns, as played with daring abandon by Emily Winter as a glamour-chasing narcissist who gets her kicks from drooling over the criminal classes, you can't really blame the sisters for their fantasy of killing her.

Slabs of sound slice the air to punctuate each scene of Mart…

Nomanslanding

Tramway, Glasgow until July 2nd
Four stars

In the dead of night, the audience are split in two and led under-cover into lamp-lit tented structures. Inside, what look like peasant women on the run lead us down a ramp and into a large circular pod. It feels part cathedral, part space-ship, and to come blinking into the light of such a fantastical structure after stumbling in the dark disorientates and overwhelms. Sat around the pod as if awaiting prayers to begin, we watch as performers Nerea Bello and Judith Williams incant mournfully on either side of the room. Their keening chorales embark on a voyage of their own, twisting around each other by way of the international language of singing. As if in sympathy, the walls wail and whisper, before starting to move as those on either side of the pod are left stranded, a gulf between them.

This international co-commission between Glasgow Life and the Merchant City Festival, Sydney Harbour Foreshaw Authority in Australia and Urbane Kienste …

High Society

Pitlochry Festival Theatre
Four stars

The stage looks gift-wrapped with a sparklingly expensive bow at the opening of John Durnin's revival of Arthur Kopit's Cole Porter based musical that reinvigorates the starry 1956 film where it originated. With the film itself drawing from Philip Barry's play, The Philadelphia Story, Kopit and Porter's depiction of the Long Island jet set says much about over-privileged party people, but retains a fizz that keeps it going till all passion is seemingly spent.
The action is based around the forthcoming nuptials of drop-dead gorgeous society gal and serial bride, Tracy Lord. With her daddy having run off with a show-girl, and ex beau next door CK Dexter Haven set sail for other shores, Tracy settles for George, a stinking rich would-be president for whom stupidity, as someone observes, sits on his shoulders like a crown. Enter Tracy's match-making kid sister Dinah and a pair of reporters for a trashy scandal sheet looking to stit…