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Review: Theatre

In My Father's Words

In My Father's Words

Tron Theatre, Glasgow

Neil Cooper

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 "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 15 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 poem and set in the 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 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 quest for mutual understanding reveals a shared history that is both intimate and epic in its reach for roots and reconciliation.

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