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Published Friday 4 January 2013 at 10:53 by Jonathan Lovett

Is fhearr Gaidhlig bhriste na Gaidhlig sa chiste - it is better to have broken Gaelic than dead Gaelic.

David Carlyle and Emily Bowker in Somersaults at the Finborough Theatre, London

David Carlyle and Emily Bowker in Somersaults at the Finborough Theatre, London Photo: Richard Davenport

The slow death of a language (Scottish Gaelic), history and identity is the subject matter of Western Isles playwright, Iain Finlay Macleod, in his elegiac play first seen at the Traverse Theatre in Edinburgh nearly two years ago.

Bankrupt and broken-hearted, James (David Carlyle) leaves his swanky Hampstead home for the rugged landscape of his homeland, the Isle of Lewis, and a touching meeting with his father (Tom Marshall).

Concerned that he cannot remember the Gaelic for ‘somersault’ he begins a journey of rediscovery while a sinister symbolic figure (Richard Teverson) attempts to liquidate not just James’ material assets but his very identity.

Despite being poetic and thought-provoking, this still feels like a fascinating idea that could have been developed into something more substantial, as if the author could have dug deeper into its peaty premise than skimming the surface.

But the snapshots of life in London and Lewis are witty and engaging and complemented by Russell Bolam’s fluid direction as scenes spin acrobatically into each other in keeping with the play’s title.

Bolam seems to bring the best out of the actors - particularly Carlyle and Teverson - although greater attention could have been paid to capturing the distinctive lilting Lewis accent.

Production information

Finborough, London, January 2-January 26

Iain Finlay Macleod
Russell Bolam
Luck Holbrook, Neil McPherson, Finborough Theatre
David Carlyle, Richard Teverson, Tom Marshall, Simon Harrison, Emily Bowker
Running time:
1hr 10mins

Production information displayed was believed correct at time of review. Information may change over the run of the show.

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Run sheet

King's Head, Islington London
January 24-February 15 2014