by Iain Finlay Macleod.
Finborough Theatre 118 Finborough Road SW10 9ED To 26 January 2013.
Tue-Sat 7.30pm Mat Sat & Sun 3pm.
Runs 1hr 15min No interval.
TICKETS: 0844 847 1652 (24hr).
www.finboroughtheatre.co.uk (no booking fee by ‘phone or online).
Review: Timothy Ramsden 3 January.
Concise, compact study of language in the lives of those who stay and those who go.
Some plays are enigmatic. Others seem so, till their elements slip into place like jigsaw pieces; after which the once-baffling can seem overly-obvious. Yet others declare their intent directly. Iain Finlay Macleod’s play, receiving its English premiere at the Finborough, is all three of these, and its skill lies in the way that what becomes clear retains a satisfying complexity.
Some of its elements have an ancestry in the ‘homecoming’ plays of the 1960s and 70s, like David Storey’s In Celebration. There it was usually the university-educated son returning to the more-or-less Northern England of their working-class parents. Here, there’s no celebration. What takes James home to the Isle of Lewis is his father’s terminal illness and his own bankruptcy in an ersatz London world. On the island, his nostalgia for Gaelic – he reassumes the name Seumas – and the island’s old crafts faces the hard reality of dying language and skills.
His Hampstead affluence having crashed, his anger smashes his marriage, and the reversion to ‘truer’ traditional values comes with a vertiginous sense – the somersaults of the title, which David Carlyle executes in perilously tight spaces, while Elliot Griggs’ lighting shifts the mood, and walls in Philip Lindley’s set open as a liquidator takes bankrupt stock of James and his goods. Judgmental, declaring himself a friend and familiar with Gaelic, this character becomes a form of conscience, a projection of unwelcome thought.
If purifying the dialect of the tribe is a poet’s job, Macleod does it progressively here. James’ mix of Gaelic, first jokingly with his London friend Mark and wife Alison, then in deeper conversation with his father Sandy on Lewis, leads to a final discussion of language, straight to audience. It ought to seem tacked-on and undramatic, but in Russell Bolam’s production, at once low-key yet intense, it fulfils George Bernard Shaw’s prescription in Too True To Be Good that when the play’s over the characters will discuss it – there, for two acts; here, for ten minutes. For language, the subject and means of their talk, is at the core of the play, and its characters’, identity.
James: David Carlyle.
Mark: Simon Harrison.
Alison: Emily Bowker.
Barrett: Richard Teverson.
Sandy: Tom Marshall.
Director: Russell Bolam.
Designer: Philip Lindley.
Lighting: Elliot Griggs.
Sound: Max Pappenheim.
Movement: Jenny Ogilvie.
Costume: Abigale Lewis.
Assistant director: Stuart Burrows.