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Matthew Zajac sees The Tailor of Inverness as tailor-made for modern Brexit fears as award-winning theatre show embarks on sixth Scottish tour

By Kyle Walker

“IT’S a show that does tend to make some people want to write us you know?” actor and writer Matthew Zajac exclaims. “And so we’ve already received a number of wonderful responses from people in the audience about the show, they’re often people who feel compelled to talk to me afterwards.”

To provoke that sort of reaction from an audience for any theatre production is an achievement to be proud of.

But for the Tailor of Inverness – Matthew’s one-man opus detailing the life, story and journey of his Polish father through central Europe during the aftermath of World War II – it’s something else entirely.

The multiple award-winning show – one of the Highlands' most acclaimed theatrical success stories – is 11 years old this year, and currently in the middle of its sixth tour of Scotland.

And people across the country are still taking something away from the production. “It has a very consistent impact, this show – which is one of the reasons why we keep on doing it,” Matthew said, “because it has a really powerful and positive effect on people, generally.”

“There was a woman who came up to me after the show in Carlops whose father is Polish and he’s actually still alive – he was born the same year as my dad which means that this year he’s going to be 100 years old.

“And this woman’s father had two brothers called Adam and Kasic which is, you know, my father had two brothers called Adam and Kasic, and he was from the same part of eastern Poland – now western Ukraine. So she felt compelled to say something.”

Its story of migration across the continent, of experiencing the visceral aftermath of one of history’s bloodiest conflicts, has become ever more pertinent in recent years. “I know – in some ways it’s even more relevant than when we first did it, with Brexit and the rise of all the xenophobes. It feels like there’s a bit less tolerance around for people these days.

“This is a play that is about Europe in a way so it’s pretty timely from that point of view as well. It certainly fairly strongly relates the horrors of the war that had been experienced across mainland Europe in a way that Britain didn’t experience it, which is one of the reasons that Brexit is happening I think.

“Because I think for many people on the European mainland, the European Union is primarily a guarantor of peace. Whereas with Britain, the relationship we’ve had with the European Union has always been primarily economic.”

It’s this melding of a political story with Matthew’s deeply personal account of his father’s journey that, he feels, has allowed the play to resonate through the decade. “I think I’m sort of lucky that in a way that my judgement has been vindicated. I hesitated for a long time in making this story public because it was such a personal story to me and my family.

“But I decided in the end, I thought that perhaps it was worthwhile making it public because in a lot of ways it’s just a story of what war does to ordinary people and families. And from that point of view, it could be from any war that’s going on or has gone on.

“Sadly, human nature is such that I’m not sure that we’re yet to have a period of history as such where there are no wars occurring anywhere in the world.

“And from that point of view it’s almost kind of relevant to today, the Tailor of Inverness.”

n The Tailor of Inverness is performed at Eden Court, Inverness from Wednesday, April 24 to Friday, April 26, before travelling to the Universal Hall, Findhorn on Saturday, April 27. For more information go to www.dogstartheatre.co.uk

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