This review was originally written for and published by The Public Reviews and can be viewed here.
As the opening ceremony of Glasgow’s Commonwealth Games rapidly approaches, the Tron Theatre is gearing up in style with Justin Young’s new play In My Father’s Words. Tender, bittersweet and beautifully written, the Dundee Rep Ensemble presents a cultural celebration of nationality, identity, language and the undiminishable links between these factors.
Louis is a university lecturer of Classics whose translation of the epic Homer poem The Odyssey is four and a half years overdue. Estranged from his father, Don, who is rapidly declining into dementia, Louis searches for a carer to look after Don as his speech becomes irregular and difficult to distinguish. He employs Flora as a day time carer and reluctantly returns to his childhood home to ensure Don is safe by night. Flora quickly identifies Don’s apparent ramblings as Gaelic – a complete surprise to Louis who insists his father is a full blooded Canadian and would have no reason to speak the “dead language.” Nevertheless, Flora continues to speak to Don in fragmented Gaelic whilst Louis progresses on his translation. As Homer’s Telemachus journeys to discover more about his father through the memories of those who met him, Flora’s curious persistence and guidance sheds light upon remnants of Don’s memories and reveals the secrets of his past.
Designed by Fiona Watt, the set is overwhelmingly wooden and incredibly effective. Accompanied by an AV design consisting of lapping waves, the audience are never far from the suggestion that Louis and Don’s relationship is unsettled and uncertain. Engaging and enlightening, the show slips slightly during transitions between scenes. Although necessary, these moments seem to drag a little too long. Music by Jon Beales perfectly complements the tone of the play.
The small cast of three are superb. Angus Peter Campbell is particularly mesmerising as Don whilst Lewis Howden and Muirean Kelly are outstanding as Louis and Flora respectively.
A thought-provoking piece of theatre, In My Father’s Words leaves one considering the power of language, the barriers it may create yet also the rewards it can provide. Playwright Justin Young states in the programme notes that a dramatist lives for the moment when their character takes on a life of their own; this is Justin Young’s moment.