‘Blackbird’ (Summerhall: 26 February – 1 March ’14)

“An outstanding performance from both cast and crew… the kind of production which makes it impossible to imagine the play in anyone else’s hands”

Editorial Rating: Outstanding

First performed in 2005, Blackbird is a terrifying play.  It’s terrifying because of its subject matter: a sexual relationship between a 12-year-old girl and a middle-aged man.  It’s terrifying because it highlights the lifelong consequences, both for the victim and her abuser.  But more than that, it’s terrifying because it dares to ask some forbidden questions – evoking just the slightest touch of sympathy for the devil, and challenging us to wonder how a once-decent man can possibly have fallen so far.  It’s morally troublesome, sexually explicit, and profoundly disturbing at times.

A decade after her defilement – and now a young woman – Una returns unexpectedly, determined to confront her abuser Ray.  Ray, in the meantime, has admitted his sins and served his time in prison, and seems to have re-built a modestly respectable life.  But that, of course, isn’t quite the full story; at the heart of the play is a series of well-paced revelations, which lead the audience through the gamut of possible responses to such a shocking tale.  And they’re all delivered through a single, credible dialogue, a masterclass in exposition done well.

But all that counts for nothing if the actors aren’t up to the task – and in Greg Wagland and Romana Abercromby, Blackbird finds the cast such a challenging script demands.  Both actors bring a reckless intensity to their roles, an urgent mutual desire to tell their shared tale.  As Una, Abercromby is sassy and bold, coolly aware of the power she now wields – a veneer which makes it all the more shocking when the true impact of the abuse is finally revealed.  Wagland, meanwhile, presents a desperate, imploring Ray, yet shows a hint of imperiousness too; it’s a many-layered performance, that delivers a lot more subtlety than first meets the eye.

While the principal actors each have their moments in the spotlight, the pivotal scene belongs to Abercromby.  As Una recalls how her life unravelled, she’s helped by Jon Beales’ haunting sound design – which carries just enough echoes of a seaside town at midnight to transport us into her painfully-remembered world.  It’s details like that which make this production so impressive, and Abercromby’s words are perfectly synchronized with the soundscape.  The whole play, in fact, is flawlessly well-performed.

Firebrand Theatre bill their production as a “site-specific staging”, which is rather stretching the point, but director Richard Baron does make excellent use of the unconventional space at Summerhall.  He turns the old-style lecture theatre into a claustrophobic and uncompromising arena – a courtroom where the audience sits in uneasy judgement on both accuser and accused.  And Baron and the actors have crafted a restlessly physical performance, using constant movement to stoke the pressure without ever feeling unnatural or forced.

If there’s a criticism to make of Harrower’s script, it’s that his symbolism is often heavy-handed: the sordid nature of the story is reflected by a squalid, rubbish-strewn stage.  And the narrative stops more than it ends, as though even the playwright didn’t know quite how to respond to his worrying final revelation.  But this is an outstanding performance from both cast and crew – the kind of production which makes it impossible to imagine the play in anyone else’s hands.  Firebrand’s reputation preceded them to Edinburgh, and it’s clear that reputation is very much deserved.


Reviewer: Richard Stamp (Seen 27 February)

Visit Firebrand Theatre homepage here.

Dial M For Murder (King’s Theatre: 18 – 22 Feb ’14)

Dial M For Murder

Photo: Manuel Harlan

“Everything about the production is carefully crafted to cast you back to a bygone age.”

Editorial Rating: Nae Bad

Here’s a piece of trivia you might not know: before it got the Hitchcock treatment, Dial M For Murder was already a popular West End play.  This elegant revival is keenly aware of that heritage, displaying an impressive attention to detail as it recreates the story’s post-war milieu.  Everything about the production – furniture, costumes, sounds – is carefully crafted to cast you back to a bygone age: a time when phones made funny clicking noises, men sank brandies before hopping in their cars, and everybody wore their waistbands astonishingly high.

The script’s distinctly old-fashioned too, especially in the opening scene, where the characters plonk themselves down on sofas to reminisce about the back-story.  But Mike Britton’s striking set design lends the production some stripped-down modern flair: an iconic bright-red telephone is matched by a looming bright-red curtain, behind which the titular murderer duly hides.  Hanging from a circular rail, the curtain creepily rotates all round the set – a constant reminder of the blood that’s been shed, and of one particular character’s all-too-obvious guilt.

The stage rotates as well – a creative approach to what could have been a very static play, though the overall effect is sometimes more disorientating than it is disturbing.  A few shifts in tone are confusing too: the protracted murder scene feels wilfully overblown, in curious contrast to the generally slow-burning mood.  But there can be no reservations about Mic Pool’s eerie soundscape, whose portentous jazz riffs have the power to make even an empty room utterly enthralling.

Christopher Timothy – well-known for his TV roles – offers a reassuring presence in the form of Inspector Hubbard, melding the homely normality you might find in Midsomer Murders with an unexpected hard-nosed urgency in the later scenes.  The role doesn’t offer him many opportunities to stand out, but it’s a finely-nuanced performance which does much to anchor the rest of the play.  The acting honours, however, truly belong to Daniel Betts, whose villainous Tony Wendice is a masterpiece of smooth malevolence.  Betts’ performance is as sleek and oily as his swept-back, Brylcreemed hair.

If the truth be told, Frederick Knott’s 60-year-old script isn’t quite as masterful as you might have been expecting, and a few of its crucial plot points defy rational analysis.  But as long as you don’t think too hard about it, you’ll find this a comfortingly faithful production – which is slow out of the starting blocks, but accelerates smoothly towards an exciting, brain-teasing conclusion.  It may not be Hitchcock, but it’s a good solid play.  Dial K for King’s and book your ticket now.

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Reviewer: Richard Stamp (Seen 18 February)

Find information and book tickets here.

Grit (Traverse: 6 Feb.’14)


an admirable sincerity”

Editorial Rating: Unrated

Presented as part of Manipulate, a week-long festival of visual theatre, Grit is an earnest analysis of how children around the world are affected by war.  Well-regarded by critics during 2012’s Edinburgh Fringe, it views this biggest of topics through a close-up lens – using a war photographer’s diary to frame the story, and drawing occasional parallels with his own life at home.

The tale’s told through a mix of puppetry, projection, and shadow-play – a combination of techniques which occasionally feels overwhelming, but in the end comes together remarkably well.  It’s not the most original of styles, but there are some creative details to enjoy: an especially powerful projected sequence cleverly brings just parts of an image into focus, picking out first a ruined building, then a man cradling a child.

But if the presentation’s deft, the storytelling’s clumsy.  Exposition comes courtesy of a pre-recorded voiceover, which very definitely tells-not-shows the photographer’s reactions to the horrors that he’s seen.  It’s desperately unsubtle, and oddly uncompelling; a war correspondent ought to be a fascinating, contradictory, damaged character, but here he seems cast as Everyman.

And sadly, it feels as though they don’t quite trust their puppets to hold our attention or to tell their story.  One otherwise-effective scene, consisting of a striking series of shadow vignettes, is accompanied by a narration so literal and descriptive it begins to feel like a sequence from a children’s TV show.  As we see a young foot thrust into an army boot, the voice tells us that a boy has become a soldier – a plot point which, quite honestly, they could have trusted us to work out for ourselves.

It would be crass to overlook the importance of Grit’s theme, and there’s an admirable sincerity to the way Tortoise in a Nutshell confront it.  But this is recognisably an early work, from a company which have (by all accounts) since gone on to great things.  It flits too quickly between too many different stories, and in the end – unlike that clever projection – never quite throws the focus on any of them.

Reviewer: Richard Stamp (Seen 6 February)

Visit Tortoise in a Nutshell homepage here.

1933: Eine Nacht im Kabarett (Summerhall: 22 Jan. – 2 Feb.)


 … determined to enjoy a decadently subversive cabaret’ ? 

Editorial Rating: Unrated

It’s 30 January, 1933: the day President Hindenburg made his fateful, fatal choice, and appointed Adolf Hitler as the Chancellor of Germany.  That night, a group of citizens and foreigners gather at a Berlin club – determined to enjoy a decadently subversive cabaret, while that pleasure’s still permitted to them.  And we’re invited too.

1933: Eine Nacht im Kabarett is essentially two shows rolled into one.  There’s the cabaret itself, up on the stage; and there’s the back-story, played out at the bar and at the tables, by actors who walk and sit among the audience.  It’s an ambitious and challenging production which dares to break some sacred rules, but unfortunately, it adds up to less than the sum of its parts.

The cabaret itself is nothing short of a delight.  David McFarlane and Calum MacAskill are multi-talented performers, playing dancing brown-shirts or failing magicians with equal, expressive ease.  Hazel DuBourdieu delivers a bravura performance as the ironic “perfect German girl”, while master of ceremonies Bev Wright is a dissolute, self-destructive dominatrix.  The original score, which Wright co-wrote with Fiona Thom, is just as well-matched to the milieu: sometimes it’s poignant, sometimes it’s rousing, and sometimes it’s a little sordid too.

So 1933 hits a lot of the right notes, but not always in the right order.  The opening is both lengthy and awkward; it’s not immediately clear whether we’re watching a painfully-misjudged shambles, or a sharply-observed satire.  It takes too long to get acquainted with all the key characters, perhaps because there are simply too many of them.  And most of all, the first half lacks the feel of reckless escapism that the setting demands: we’re told the Hitler Youth is marching in the streets outside, but little sense of danger spills over into the room.

The scene finally snaps into focus after the interval, with the arrival of Nazi official Captain Vöhner – deftly played by a commanding Andy Corelli.  As Vöhner seats himself very visibly among the crowd, our role as the audience becomes an increasingly uncomfortable one.  At one point we’re asked to sing along to a catchy ditty, lampooning Hitler’s rise to power, and the whole room turned a nervous eye to Vöhner’s table.  Would he see the funny side?

For the most part though, 1933 sits in a frustrating middle ground, making unconventional demands of the audience without granting corresponding freedoms.  Daringly, playwright-director Susanna Mulvihill often has two dialogues happen simultaneously, one at each end of the room.  But you have no choice which to listen to; stuck in your seat at a cabaret table, you may well find a crucial character-defining conversation being drowned out by small-talk at the table next door.  It’s true to life, certainly – but it’s not a satisfying way to tell a story.

And on a larger scale, too, Mulvihill’s script often has too much going on.  Overall, she needs the help of a fearless editor: someone who can cut the repetition, bring a tighter focus to the storyline, and point out the places where her messages grow overly obscure.

1933 is a fascinating experiment, with some genuine highlights both on the floor and on the stage.  It’s a shame it doesn’t quite hold together.

Reviewer: Richard Stamp (Seen 24 January)

Visit 1933: Eine Nacht im Kabarett homepage here.

‘Amanda’ (The Kilderkin: 28 Nov ’13)

“Actor Anne Kane Howie makes a nicely detached Amanda, far from emotionless yet tightly controlled, the perfect match for her ambiguous role”

Editorial Rating: Nae Bad 

Part of November’s “Theatre Uncut” season, the one-off short play Amanda lends an important global political issue a distinctively Scottish spin.  From a Holyrood office to a New Town retreat, we follow one woman’s progress through a perfectly ordinary day; a day that involves both struggle and compromise, sometimes with voices from her own past.

Wisely, given its twenty-minute duration, the story’s confined to a single scene and a single character – the titular Amanda.  In the company of two narrators, we visit Amanda in a moment of quiet introspection, alone in the bathroom of her Georgian flat.  Building such a short piece around such a low-key premise is a mature decision from playwright Kieran Hurley, but perhaps it’s a little too luxuriant; when all’s said and done, the piece develops slowly and ends with little territory explored.

Hurley does, however, deliver an elegantly subtle turnaround.  At first, it seems we’re expected to dislike Amanda (rather unfairly, since her only obvious crimes are to sprinkle her bath with rose petals and enjoy the sound of posh voices on Radio 4).  But later, we learn she’s a more complex character than she first appears; and perhaps, the script seems to suggest, our reactions to her need to be complex ones too.

Actor Anne Kane Howie makes a nicely detached Amanda, far from emotionless yet tightly controlled, the perfect match for her ambiguous role.  Nick Cheales and Yvonne Paterson perform well as the dual narrators; they’re unobtrusive without being inconspicuous, and their deft handling of the props required to create Amanda’s bathroom speaks of meticulous rehearsal.

As always, director Andy Corelli works in some charmingly quirky motifs – right up to the curtain-call, where he remembers something I’d completely forgotten, that Amanda needs to step out of the bath.  He also makes good use of the improvised space at the Kilderkin, proving that rooms behind a pub don’t have to be the exclusive preserve of stand-up comedy.  There’s an incongruity to the setting that can’t quite be denied, but some clever scene-setting and an opportunistic use of the Christmas lights successfully evoke the essence of the elegant New Town.

Overall, the odd thing about Amanda is that it’s not an activist piece – or even an especially political one.  You might choose to think that the title character has sold out her principles; but you might think she’s simply grown wiser as she’s grown up.  The script presents some facts about her life yet your interpretation of those truths comes entirely from within.  So is that an abdication of the playwright’s duty, or a valuable spark for debate?  On that question also, you’ll have to make up your own mind.

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Reviewer: Richard Stamp (Seen 28 November)

‘The Improvised Panto!’ (City Nightclub: 9-13 Dec ’13)

“Few styles of performance are so ripe for lampooning; and with a vast canon of familiar characters to draw from, the potential for capering hijinks is huge”

Editorial Rating: Unrated

An improvised panto is an inspired idea. Few styles of performance are so ripe for lampooning; and with a vast canon of familiar characters to draw from, the potential for capering hijinks is huge. Edinburgh-based Impro FX give it a good shot with this gutsy performance, but their hook just isn’t quite strong enough to hang onto.

The trouble with reviewing improv is that it’s different every night, and this particular performance was… well, probably not Impro FX’s strongest. The oddball tale of a visionary Moroccan takeaway driver never fully came together, and the occasional songs (accompanied by pianist Dan McGurty) involved just a bit too much repetition. It must be said the audience’s suggestions didn’t give them a huge amount to work from; it might have helped to throw out examples of the kinds of riffs they were looking for, instead of asking the crowd to come up with creative ideas from a standing start.

And, an improvised panto? Oh no, it isn’t. To be fair, there was a passable horse, and the magisterial Charlie Hindley proved an alarmingly credible dame. But a pair of false breasts does not a panto make; there was no badly-written innuendo, very little call and response, no pastiche of minor celebrities from Forth One. At times, it seemed that Impro FX had dropped back to a more familiar style of improv, and forgotten that they were meant to be staging a pantomime at all.

Cast as the mandatory talking animal, Steve Worsley duly grinned like the Cheshire Cat right through the performance, and his engaging warmth went a long way towards smoothing over the inevitable rough edges of the plot. Harry Gooch doubled up to play both hero and arch-villain, with deliciously farcical results in the last couple of scenes, while a selfless Will Naameh held the whole thing together – just about – as a pleasingly queeny princess.

So the stock characters are all there; but to take their concept further, Impro FX might play a bit more to our childish delight in the genre. The emergence of that pantomime horse, for example, could be built up into a much-anticipated moment of nostalgia, rather than just an ironic nod. And they need to call on their audience more – shamelessly and clearly – demanding our cheers and our comedy hisses! Because, while we know the catchphrases we’re supposed to shout out, amidst the chaos of an improv show we need some help understanding just when we’re meant to say them.

Reviewer: Richard Stamp (Seen 10 December)

‘Stella’ (Traverse: 19-30 Nov ’13)

Stella Image by Richard Gamper

Image courtesy of Richard Gamper

“An elegant design from Gus Munro, and some emotive acting – particularly from an impassioned Kathyrn Pogson – can’t save it from an over-embellished yet under-developed plot”

Even if you’re up to speed on the history of science, you may never have heard of Caroline Herschel.  A woman working in a world dominated by men, she’s eclipsed by her famous brother William; yet even during her own lifetime, she was recognised as a talented astronomer in her own right.  Using that most time-worn of framing devices – a modern-day woman reading a diary – Stella challenges our ignorance, telling the tale of Herschel’s career as she joins her brother in England.  But if you’re expecting a detailed insight into the unique achievements of this female pioneer… you may well be disappointed.

The clue’s in the subtitle, really.  Stella is “a story of women, their men and astronomy”, very definitely in that order.  We hear a lot about Herschel’s relationship with her brother, whose marriage and fatherhood late in life sets the scene for some classic familial discord, but there’s regrettably little assessment of what she truly contributed to her field of study.  The script skips oddly quickly over her independent discoveries, essentially casting her as a diligent but put-upon helper – and while the notes on the back of the programme go some way towards justifying that choice, the play itself could do much more to explain the nuances and contradictions of her role.

On the plus side, both script and actors convey a fine sense of the mysteries of the cosmos, not least the incomprehensible wonderment surrounding the Herschels’ surprise discovery of the planet Uranus.  Some gentle humour works well, and at the heart of the plot there’s an excellent hook – a black hole of torn-out pages from Caroline’s meticulous diary.  But the script never quite sells that mystery, instead choosing to plod chronologically onwards, always displaying perfect confidence that matters will be revealed in time.

Perhaps because the main storyline’s so conspicuously short on drama, the production adds a second string: a neat parallel between the violence of the Arab Spring and the burning of the ancient Great Library of Alexandria.  It’s rounded out by some telling quotations from the martyred fourth-century female philosopher Hypatia, which serve well to keep things thematically complete.  There’s enough in that clever concept to support a whole separate play, but here it feels like an afterthought – especially since its emotionally-wrought conclusion is so strikingly different to the rest of the tone.

Stella is a missed opportunity.  Rather than exploring what’s distinctive in Herschel’s story, it diverts all too frequently onto expository sidelines, or less-than-subtle parallels with the present day.  An elegant design from Gus Munro, and some emotive acting – particularly from an impassioned Kathyrn Pogson – can’t save it from an over-embellished yet under-developed plot.

Reviewer: Richard Stamp (Seen 19 November)


‘The Mystery of Edwin Drood’ (Pleasance Theatre: 19-23 Nov ’13)

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“The songs are catchy, the dialogue’s sharp, and there’s a delightful knowingness to the banter with the audience”

Editorial Rating: Nae Bad 

Who killed Edwin Drood?  Many have wondered – but nobody quite knows, since Charles Dickens’ untimely death left his novel tantalisingly poised before the story’s dénouement.  This high-energy, high-risk production addresses the problem in twenty-first century style, by asking the audience to cast their votes on just who the miscreant should be.  Oh yes!  And by doing the whole thing as a musical.

It sounds an odd proposition, but by the time the curtain falls, it’s clear why Rupert Holmes’ innovative production was acclaimed on its debut in 1985. The songs are catchy, the dialogue’s sharp, and there’s a delightful knowingness to the banter with the audience.  And this student version from the Edinburgh University Savoy Opera Group retains the sense of daring which must have defined this first-ever interactive musical, with a vibe of joyful chaos and the cast electioneering amidst the crowd.

Before the vote can happen, though, there’s a whole load of Dickens to cavort through.  Actor Campbell Keith bears much of the responsibility for driving the plot, and duly gives it both barrels as the villainous Mr Jasper; if you enjoy his powerful early solo number, just wait till you see him dance. Rosa Bud, the target of Jasper’s lecherous affections, is beautifully portrayed by Alexandra Pittock, whose fine singing voice eloquently captures Rosa’s mix of chaste purity and independent spark.  Other stand-outs among the large cast include Ari L’Hevender as a big-hearted lady of ill repute, and Giselle Yonance, who gives a nuanced performance in the title role.

Holmes’ Tony-award-winning book pictures Edwin Drood performed in a late-Victorian music hall – complete with bickering divas, ill-disciplined clowns and a bombastic MC.  It’s a set-up that licenses some glorious over-acting, and EUSOG embrace that liberty with gusto; Austin Nuckols’ Reverend Crisparkle grows especially hilarious as time wears on.

The humour tends to broad parody – ranging from cor-blimey stereotype accents to a long-running lampoon of the entire musical form – and the treatment of a few key scenes might benefit from more light and shade.  In particular, the choir-master’s advances on his pupil Rosa deserve to be more stomach-churning, given the sad procession of stories of real-life abuse which has emerged over the past few years.  It must also be said that there were quite a few genuine bloopers mixed in among the accidental-on-purpose ones, though all were saved with engaging good humour by a supportive and adaptive cast.

So this isn’t the subtlest or most polished of work, but it’s big, it’s daring and it’s a whole load of fun.  What’s more, at a flab-free two-hours-forty, it’s great value too.  It is, in short, exactly what a student musical ought to be; see it if you can.

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Reviewer: Richard Stamp (Seen 20 November)

Visit The Mystery of Edwin Drood homepage here.

‘Twonkey’s Blue Cadabra’ (Mary King’s Close: 6 Nov ’13)

Twonkey pic three 2013

“Vickers weaves bizarre, bamboozling, absurdly nonsensical stories, which he tells with a mix of puppetry and song “

Editorial Rating: Nae Bad

Who is Twonkey?  What is a cadabra?  Why is Twonkey’s cadabra blue?  All your questions will be answered – sort of – in the course of this weirdly compelling performance, which combines freewheeling inventiveness with some genuinely touching storytelling.  Fresh from a much-starred run at the Edinburgh Fringe, this one-off appearance in the depths of Mary King’s Close also included some new material destined for next year’s follow-up show.

Any attempt to describe Paul Vickers’ one-man act is doomed to inadequacy, but here’s a quick list of just a few of the things he covers.  An oven talks; a tailor flies; a creepy cat just keeps coming back, and our host explains the best way to sneak up on an unsuspecting microphone.  Vickers weaves bizarre, bamboozling, absurdly nonsensical stories, which he tells with a mix of puppetry and song.  His parallel worlds have an internal consistency, and enough points of reference to hang onto – but if you’re expecting a close connection with reality, you’ll be set to rights within the first few minutes of his pleasantly perplexing routine.

It simply wouldn’t work if you took it too seriously.  But Vickers, who drifts in and out of character as Mr Twonkey, develops a rapid rapport with his audience; the crowd grew noticeably more relaxed with his complex material as the show wore on.  There’s a fair amount of comic bungling – it takes real panache to lose your props quite so endearingly, quite so often – and selected punters have their minds probed by psychic underwear, an ice-breaker which actually works remarkably well.

But for all the random wackiness, there’s a real poignancy to some of the storytelling.  Vickers’ biography of Stan Laurel might be untroubled by actual facts, but his imagined anecdote touches on big questions of fame, friendship, and the things a celebrity must leave behind.  And the most moving story of all was the very last one he told, which used a run-in with a drunken postman as the jumping-off point for a tale of lost love.  Suddenly, and very quietly, the whimsical took a devastatingly serious turn.

It might have been a touch more satisfying if the stories linked together – absurdist non-sequiturs can only take you so far – but Vickers’ greatest achievement is to leave you feeling that, in a way you can’t quite express, it all made perfect sense in the end.  A show like this is bound to split opinion, and if you want to be led by the hand through an intricately-constructed narrative you really won’t like it at all.  But if you relish the occasional outbreak of nonsense, you’ll find Twonkey’s Blue Cadabra a gloriously colourful show.


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Reviewer: Richard Stamp (Seen 6 November)

Visit Twonkey’s Blue Cadabra homepage here.



‘The Tailor of Inverness’ (Summerhall: 1-2 Nov ’13)


Image by Tim Morozzo

“the energy boils over from time to time, and a handful of moments of great poignancy felt rushed and under-sold”

Much acclaimed on its earlier runs at the Edinburgh Fringe, The Tailor Of Inverness tells the true life story of the late Mateusz Zajac… who was also performer and playwright Matthew Zajac’s dad.  Displaced from his home in eastern Poland at the onset of the Second World War, Zajac senior’s travels took him across numerous battlefields, before he finally settled in the north of Scotland and lived out the remainder of his life as a respected local craftsman.  It’s a complex tale, but well-judged projections in the background help keep track of the tailor’s journey through life, as he voyages from Poland to war in Africa and a C&A factory in Glasgow.

But here’s the thing.  If you’re over the age of – let’s say – thirty-five, the chances are that you grew up listening to no less fascinating wartime tales. There is a reason to tell Zajac’s story above most others, but the script waits far too long to show the trump cards in its hand.  Too much time early on is given over to the bones of the eponymous tailor’s narrative, which is engaging and sometimes thought-provoking but not, on cold analysis, particularly exceptional.

And the latter parts of the play are disappointingly factual.  Thanks to its extensive use of documentary video recordings, the production feels more than anything like an edition of Who Do You Think You Are?, depriving it of some of the impact a more theatrical approach could have engendered.  It’s particularly sad that we hear so little from the tailor’s character during this second part of the play; the set-up seems perfect for a speculative analysis of his motivations, but some obvious questions about why he behaved the way he did remain almost entirely unexplored.

Actor-playwright Matthew Zajac has earned many deserved plaudits for his role in this play.  His mix of Polish and Scottish accents is a particular delight, and his physical performance is utterly dauntless.  But, five years after he first performed his script, he may have lost a little subtlety – the energy boils over from time to time, and a handful of moments of great poignancy felt rushed and under-sold.  The script also tends to over-use the device of jumping into the middle of an intense scene, a technique which loses its effectiveness when it’s deployed too often.

The Tailor Of Inverness is a fine history lesson – you’ll learn a great deal about how the borders of Eastern Europe were drawn – and an inspiring tale of a loving son’s efforts to piece together the past.  But there’s something missing: a moral, perhaps, or a clear sense of purpose.  The tailor appeals to us to accept him for who he is – at once a Pole, a Ukrainian, a Russian, and a Scot – but aside from Nazi ideologues, nobody in the play seems to have any problem doing exactly that.  This is a story well told, but it’s frustratingly hard to pin down quite what it wants to teach us.


Reviewer: Richard Stamp (Seen 1 November)