Paper Memories @ North Edinburgh Arts

Image contribution:
Beth Chalmers

Director: Rachael Macintyre

Writer: Mariem Omari

Imagine in ten minutes time, you’re fleeing home. You can only take four objects. Whilst tempted by the glitz or price tags, many would pick items instilled with fragile memories. 

In Jabuti Theatre’s Paper Memories, Tali and her family find themselves relocating to Scotland from an undisclosed location. At first the family find themselves out of place, their mother wishing for nothing more than move on and forget. Tali brings four treasures, each with a memory attached. As each one is cast aside, destroyed or de-valued, her memories begin to tear away, harming Tali further.

We shackle ourselves to memories, and in the attempts to break these we quite often do more harm than good. The more Tali’s mother pushes for these memories to be buried, the tighter Tali clings to them. Mariem Omari’s writing draws deep vivid connections from such small objects – a tuft of fur, a skirt and a wishbone from Grandmother’s special chicken.

What really sells the emotion of loss and family ties are the performances from the cast, Helen Parke’s Tali alongside Jusztina Hermann’s role as the mother especially. Hermann’s mother is a character we can identify with, not questioning why she would want to leave the past buried. Parke’s flippant bursts from sorrow to childlike glee playing with her sister or at the sight of a small paper rabbit are exquisite.

This bunny, hopping onto the audience’s laps, is joined by several chickens and a small, charming dove spiralling around the feats of aerial movement. This audience interaction, whilst aimed at the younger audience members, can be appreciated by adults for its craft, humour and intention. The crisp white of Kim Bergsagel’s puppet design stands out against Simon Gane’s atmospherically rich light design.

Both Parke and director Rachael Macintyre perform aerial feats that are certainly impressive in scale for a smaller venue. It adds wonder to the production in opening up the limited space. We travel the seas, the skies and find ourselves living through the eyes of Tali, all high above the ground below. 

Paper Memories is an approachable look not only at memories and family dynamics, but also on immigration and identity for a younger audience. It’s present, but not a focal point, because the memories and slivers of what the family fled from are enough to open eyes and encourage questions.

Production still touring:
http://www.jabutitheatre.com/paper-memories/

Review originally published for The Skinny:
https://www.theskinny.co.uk/theatre/shows/reviews/paper-memories-north-edinburgh-arts-edinburgh

The Tailor of Inverness @ The Brunton

Image Contribution:
Dogstar Theatre

Writer: Matthew Zajac

Director: Ben Harrison

War and all of its travesties will never be understood. From the British perspective – we were the heroes, they the villains. When presented with people quite literally in the bootstraps of the opposition many are unable to connect. The stories told by people leaving the Third Reich behind are sometimes worn proudly, as a warning. Sometimes hushed, wishing to forget, but for the case of immigrants such as Mateusz Zajac, the reinvention of his time during the war is to ensure his acceptance in Scotland as The Tailor of Inverness.

The son of the Polish tailor, Matthew Zajac has endeavoured to get to the foundations of his father Mateusz’s life during his enigmatic years. Playing both the role of he and his father, this stage adaption keeps the descriptive plot and offers poignant performances with rich accompaniment by fiddler Gavin Marwick.

As the tailor’s strings are stitched, woven into his son Matthew’s jacket it’s within these threads we find the inherent fault with an otherwise remarkable piece of theatre. For those familiar, it’s no secret that Zajac’s writing is at its pinnacle superb, at its weakest complicated. Several threads are left untightened throughout the narrative, though with reason. When all the strands are in place – Zajac pulls the hems together and what we hope for is a tight piece where all threads align. In truth, it isn’t as difficult as others claim to follow – but for the general theatre-going public, it is not straightforward.

Zajac’s ardent performance inherently helps the story. As this is his story, his father’s story, the story of his family and his cultural identity – the delivery is natural. It’s volatile in its emotion, painful to hear, but eye-opening to watch. There’s merriment, dancing and humour – his performance isn’t only compelling, but enjoyable.

Where the theatrical adaption enhances the book, is with the ability to offer visuals. We see the interviews and hear the audio tapes Matthew has made in his travels. While we often enjoy making our own images, the projections allow us to invest so much more in this family’s growth story. The impressive set design, a series of garments flattened into a screen is an inventive method to allow for projection. The ridges in the shirt cuffs, however, cause obstruction of words if you’re far to either side of the theatre.

The theme of circling is eternally present in Zajac’s text, it’s themed such as a strive to battle against ourselves, identity and this complex narrative. The story told by his father, of circling a fox in order to snare it runs parallel to other events. The first, Matthew’s closing in around his father’s footsteps before his time in Scotland. More though, on the subject of immigration, is Mateusz’s reinvention of his past.

Immigration is not just a ‘current’ issue, tragically it’s always been an issue. Even in the reparations of war, Mateusz found himself in another circle – a circle of his own creation surrounding his time in the Soviet Union, as a soldier for the German side, but also a prisoner of war. The truth spiralling in on him, The Tailor of Inverness is indeed relevant still today, just as it was 10 years ago.

Transitioning to the stage works for The Taylor of Inverness, though only so much. The original text has space in order to lay it’s groundwork more seamlessly. The passion, power and triumphant ability within Zajac’s performance is commanding. Regardless of complexity, The Tailor of Inverness is still the construction of importance, an empathetic yet defiant examination of family, reinvention, storytelling and two men’s different but extraordinary journeys.

Review originally published for The Reviews Hub:
https://www.thereviewshub.com/the-tailor-of-inverness-brunton-theatre-musselburgh/

Production touring: http://www.dogstartheatre.co.uk/

Kith @ Assembley Roxy

Image Contribution:
Adam Greene and Adam Gordon

Writen and Directed by Adam Gordon

Truth is often difficult to find within folklore, where it’s hidden behind illusionary metaphors. Sometimes, however, a talented storyteller can excavate the elusive bugger. Adam Gordon’s Kith is a modern folklore tale which tells us the story of Glasgow-born Dani (Adam Greene), the son of a migrant mother who shrouds her past. After her passing, Dani sets out to uncover her origins along with his own.

This isn’t all, though – the narrative writhes and twists in on itself. To begin we are introduced to Adam, a young purveyor of stories. This time the story isn’t finished yet. His dreams of Dani spark a desire to poke into what is unanswered. In the end, Adam tells us about Dani, who, in turn, seeks the truth about his mother.

Falling on its own sword, Kith suffers from a notion it directly addresses: intangible stories without endings. Individually, the overall narrative has elements more similar to skits or scenes. Separately, almost any one of these are fragments of genius; together, these fragments are lost in the dark waters of convolution. Some pages of folklore graze against one another, the transition of time or character communicated well. Other points suffer from leaps of unexpected perceptions. We’re not entirely sure if we’re seeing Dani, his mother, Adam or a being entirely unearthly.

Greene’s performance is fitting for Primal Dream Theatre; the presentation is visceral, almost violent at times. His entire existence is given to these characters in these precise moments. His ability to move the audience’s sense of location and time is impressive but outshined by his ability to personify abstract concepts of mortality, war, folklore and love.

The in-house technical team for Primal Dream Theatre helps to focus on modern fascinations and notions of identity, immigration, isolation and the shape of violence and bigotries. Sound design boosts Greene’s impact, especially in an intense scene following suicide – the revving sounds of the human mind amidst flickering lights underscore Greene’s performance as he ‘restarts’ into the next scene.

Ambition is an admirable feat, which will pay off for Kith in time. Its performance components are honed, delivering powerful emotion. At times poetically written, there’s merit in crafting a story within a story… within a story. But the multi-layered narrative needs ironing out with clearer structure.

Review originally published for The Skinny:
https://www.theskinny.co.uk/theatre/shows/reviews/kith-assembly-roxy-edinburgh