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Mark Fisher
Edinburgh, Scotland, United Kingdom
Follow me @markffisher and @writeabouttheat I am an Edinburgh-based freelance journalist and critic specialising in theatre and the arts. Publications I write for include the Guardian, Scotland on Sunday and the Scotsman. I am the author of The Edinburgh Fringe Survival Guide: how to make your show a success, published in February 2012 and How to Write About Theatre: A Manual for Critics, Students and Bloggers published in July 2015. From 2000-2003, I was the editor of The List magazine, Glasgow and Edinburgh's arts and events guide. See my website for more information and comprehensive Scottish theatre links.
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Tuesday, August 05, 2008

The Tailor of Inverness

© Mark Fisher - published in Northings - Highlands and Islands Arts Journal

THE TAILOR OF INVERNESS (Assembly Rooms, Edinburgh until 24 August 2008; touring February-March 2009)
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05 August 2008

MARK FISHER admires Matthew Zajac’s interweaving of the personal and the historical in his new one-man show

MATTHEW ZAJAC'S father used to tell a story about how to catch a fox. The method is to get the creature in the open then circle it. As long as you complete the circle, the fox will stay grounded. Then you spiral inwards and take your prey.

Zajac does something similar to his father. In The Tailor of Inverness (or Krawiec z Inverness), the writer and actor slowly closes in on the Polish-born Zajac senior, giving him enough space to tell his life story in his own way, but not so much room that the old man escapes, fox-like, with his distortions, evasions and rewriting of history.

The one-man show for the Inverness company Dogstar is at once a son's affectionate tribute to a man who maintained his generous spirit despite suffering the privations of war and exile, and a level-headed analysis of how the great movements of history shape us into the people we are.

The play is being showcased on the Edinburgh Fringe before a Highlands tour next year, which will be very much worth catching. By rights, it should be a part of the Edinburgh International Festival, so closely does it fit in with artistic director Jonathan Mills’ theme about borders.

Zajac's father was born in a part of Poland that became the Ukraine, was drafted into the armies of both Communist Russia and Nazi Germany and fled – depending on whose story you believe – across most of Europe before settling in Glasgow and finally Inverness. Even before the added poignancy of the personal discoveries made by the actor after his father's death, the story brilliantly encapsulates the effects of war on individuals, families and societies across place and time.

Under the direction of Ben Harrison – famed for his site-specific work with Edinburgh's Grid Iron company – Zajac proves a compelling storyteller, capturing the fractured English and have-a-go enthusiasm of his father before weaving himself into an increasingly layered narrative.

As the truth becomes less and less certain, so the fracturing impact of the war grows more tangible, lending this touching personal story the grand metaphorical weight of 20th century history. All this and live fiddle too.

© Mark Fisher, 2008

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