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The Tailor of Inverness - Theatre Review

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by dpm (subscribe)
dpm is a Birmingham-based freelancer with experience of arts and lifestyle features.
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When the thread is pulled it, the tailor's tale unravels
This work is intensely personal for actor and director Matthew Zajac as it tells the life story of his father.

We begin by watching the tailor, Mateusz, sewing a jacket as he retells that story. It is a tale which takes him from the Second World War killing zone of Central Europe to a new life in Scotland where he relocated after the conflict ended.

Matthew Zajac in The Tailor of Inverness
Matthew Zajac in The Tailor of Inverness

In telling the story, Mateusz dons different jackets one moment a Polish soldier the next back to his life as a tailor in Inverness.

But just as his stitching can be unpicked, so we quickly realise that Mateusz' story can also be de-threaded. Because Mateusz' memories of the war don't quite add up.

As Matthew digs deeper into his father's past, the play becomes filled with painful discoveries of fabrications and patches all hiding the real truth of Mateusz' wartime experiences.

Zajac makes no judgement on his father. With the region ripped apart by racial strife, with nations being dismantled and with families caught in the middle, the ambiguities of Mateusz' existence are not easy to judge.

Accompanied only by a solo violinist, Zajac tells the story through the eyes and lies of his father and through his own narrative as he discovers a truth more complex than he could ever have imagined.

The Tailor of Inverness, Birmingham Rep, Poland, Ukraine, Scotland, tailor, Matthew Zajac
The Tailor of Inverness at Birmingham Rep

Ali Maclaurin's set design is ingenious with a backdrop of whitewashed clothes which not only reflect the job of the tailor but are also a haunting reminder of some of the worst of the Nazi atrocities in which piles of clothes were stolen from families as they were forced into death chambers.

Performed in The Door at Birmingham Repertory Theatre, directed by Ben Harrison and staged by Dogstar Theatre, the drama is based on Zajac's book of the same title. Premiered at the Edinburgh Fringe in 2008, The Tailor of Inverness has gone on to be a huge success with tours across the UK, Europe, USA and Australia.

Despite its personal nature, there is universality in Mateusz' experience which is all the more relevant because of the current civil conflicts in countries such as Syria and the refugee crises. Mateusz' experiences of leaving the past behind and building a new life will resonate with many people in many ways.
The Tailor of Inverness is a brave piece of theatrical story-telling which beautifully uses the themes around tailoring, costumes, disguises and recreation to underpin the tale. Its powerful narrative and forthright presentation will stay with you long after you leave the venue.

At The Door at Birmingham Rep until March 5.
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Why? A brave piece of powerful theatre
When: until March 5
Phone: 0121 236 4455
Where: Birmingham Rep
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