The Tailor of Inverness

Tolbooth, Stirling

Keith Bruce

five stars

A PACKED house for this revival of Dogstar Theatre's most successful and garlanded show, from 2008, and probably few there were as conscious as I of a glaring gap in their theatre-going. Rather, company founder Matthew Zajac's story of the remarkable life of his Polish father resonates increasingly clearly not only with the elderly present who can recall the Europe of World War 2, but with the younger members of the audience for whom a refugee crisis is a clear and present reality.

Accompanied by Jonny Hardie's plaintive fiddle and directed with contemporary flair by Grid Iron's Ben Harrison, this one-man narrative is a wonderful example of the sort of touring theatre at which Scotland once routinely excelled: accessible, political and unashamedly emotional. Put simply, Zajac tells the story of how he came to exist, the child of a father from Galicia and a mother from Glasgow's Maryhill. But the dad he portrays speaking in a winning mix of period Scots slang vocabulary and Eastern European accent, is an unreliable narrator and the authentic period leaps in his memory obscure family secrets and war-time compromises that perhaps he dared nor admit event to himself.

With just a rail of clothes the key prop, supplying other characters, entrances and long rail journeys, nothing is overstated in the matter-of-fact presentation of the cruelties of the 20th century. Projected animation assists with the complex geography of this eloquent history lesson, and tellingly Zajac voices the last, personal, monologue of his return to Poland using the future tense.

On tour until the end of March, visiting Traverse, Edinburgh tomorrow, Wednesday and Thursday and Eden Court, Inverness on Friday and Saturday.