Tron Theatre, Glasgow
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