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In My Father's Words
Justin Young's play, however, takes place in an old wooden house on the shores of Lake Ontario, Canada. It is here that Don (Angus Peter Campbell) has been slowly descending into dementia when his son Louis (Garry Collins) is called back home by local authorities.
Louis, an intellectual and classics professor who has long been estranged from his working-class father, wants to hire live-in help for round-the-clock care. But all he can find is Flora (Muireann Kelly), a single mother who can only care for his father during the day. This means Louis will be left in charge at night.
It's a difficult situation soon complicated when Don begins speaking in Scottish Gaelic, a language Flora understands but Louis does not. From then on, the play becomes something of a mystery as Flora tries to enlist Louis in finding out more about Don's mysterious past.
But In My Father's Words is much more.
Young has penned a story that explores language, identity and how together they affect our understanding of ourselves and others. Under Philip Howard's able direction, the play is often extremely moving.
Collins and Kelly carry most of the play (and almost all of the English dialogue). They are eloquent in their fiery scenes but equally effective in the quiet moments when they tentatively reach out to each other. Campbell, portrays dementia with a terrifying verisimilitude.
In fact, In My Father's Words might be a truly great play if the author could have figured out a satisfactory ending. As it is, Young introduces too many plot lines and leaves too many questions unanswered.
To make matters worse, this production has numerous technical problems. Projections (Iso and Emlyn Firth) misfire, and the lighting (Grant Anderson) is uneven; so poor at times that the English translations of Gaelic phrases projected on a screen are impossible to read. With just a few tweaks in the dialogue, most probably these translations would not be necessary at all, and a huge improvement for the audience.
A weak ending in any play is a disappointment, but in such a truly glorious play, it is heartbreaking. It would be wonderful if Young would take a second look, go back to the drawing (or writing) board and give us an ending worthy of this heartrending and penetrating work.