tailor top

The Tailor of Inverness

Birmingham Rep Door

*****

AS A winner of four fringe theatre awards, including The Scotsman Fringe First Award and The Stage Best Solo Performer ward, it is clear that Matthew Zajac is no less than an artistic wonder.

His play represents his own story, or to be specific, the story of his father. It is a tale of the life of a Polish soldier and tailor.

In his hour and a half one man production, Zajac gives an account of his father’s experience within war to examine identity and what it means to those who have forcibly had their identity stripped away.

Zajac is a mesmerising performer. With an intense and focused manner, his commitment to the role is well and truly inspiring. Of course, his story holds a great personal meaning in that this is a subject about his own father.

In a beautifully well written and gloriously informed script, we venture into two time zones and two characters. At the start of the play, Zajac encapsulates the role of his father. We first see him as a tailor living in Inverness and then he quickly goes into his story of his past life as a Polish man living with his family in Ukraine.

Zajac captures the essence of his father with an exceptional influence. He gives his father a Polish accent with the faintest Scottish lilt, which is impressive and authentic. He first introduces his father as the friendly old neighbour

 He is sweet and conversational, telling the audience about Zajachis many job offers and how he made a ‘lot of money’ in the old days having just arrived in Scotland. This charm and warmth captures the audience’s imagination immediately and we are instantly drawn to his character. Zajac does well not to give everything away at the start of the production, but rather, lets it build up naturally for us to easily absorb his father’s journey.

Matthew Zajac telling the story of his father's journey

He quickly jumps into scenes from his father’s youth with interludes of singing Polish Nursery rhymes. With each scene, it becomes clearer that The Tailor’s journey to Inverness was not a smooth one, but forced upon him due to conflicts of war with German occupation and Russian pressure in his Polish village in Modern Ukraine.

The scenes are laced with information, helped with a projection of maps and pictures on a backdrop of a wall covered in white washed clothes and garments. He uses a clothes rail with an array of soldier’s uniforms to become other soldiers and German commandants, giving a hard hitting and sharp look at life throughout war. With each scene, we go back to the time of war and the heartache of knowing that he could never go back to his home country to see his mother or the rest of his family in Ukraine again.

Zajac is accompanied by a single violin player who sits upstage in the corner. He guides us through each story and time zone, giving an emotional backdrop to Zajac’s incredible memory of what his father had to go through, but also the memory of his father as a person. 

In his performance, we learn about a man with a need to survive. As the performance unfolds, we learn that Zajac’s father was enlisted into the Polish Army, then forced to join the German Army, upon Germany’s occupation of Poland. Discovering that his brother fled to Scotland, Zajac’s father also made his way to Scotland in a final attempt at freedom. He says ‘that’s it’ but of course, Zajac adds another layer onto his father’s inspiring and captivating story.

As the play draws to an end, Zajac then plays himself, a Scottish man who tells us about how he remembers him as a dad. He uses his art as a way of finding out about what being Polish means to him as the next generation. We hear about Zajac’s trip to Polish Ukraine, a journey that his father could have never taken himself. In his look into the past of his father’s life as a prisoner of war, he discovers a new identity that had not been seen before, giving hope and inspiration through a bleak story of death, in an analysis of what identity truly means.  To 05-03-16

Elizabeth Halpin

03-03-16 

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