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Somersaults, Finborough Theatre

Iain Finlay Macleod
Directed by Russell Bolam
★★★

Pros: Great movement and high production values throughout.

Cons: The show is a little disjointed to begin with and doesn’t quite challenge the audience enough.

Our Verdict: This is a play which goes some distance in tackling an important subject matter but sadly it doesn’t have quite enough depth.

Courtesy of the Finborough Theatre

Somersaults is a play which explores the importance of Scots Gaelic to our protagonist as his life in London begins to unravel. The writer Iain Finlay Macleod is fluent in Gaelic himself, having published novels in the language previously, so he is well acquainted with the issues surrounding its demise. The decline of Scots Gaelic is an undeniably tragic part of history in the UK and considering it doesn’t receive much attention these days, Somersaults has hit on an important issue.

There are plenty of reasons to see this production, currently premiering at the Finborough Theatre. It features good lighting and sound design and some genuinely great moments within the script. For any language enthusiasts too, amateur or otherwise, this play is certainly worth a look. Where I think the writing fares especially well is in highlighting what is lost as we lose our mother tongue – namely the way of life and the history that dies with the language. The words our protagonist James is missing are intrinsically linked to his childhood on the Isle of Lewis and actor David Carlyle does well in expressing the angst of the experience.

However, saying all of this, the play doesn’t ever quite make the lasting impression that I had hoped for and I found myself always wanting just a little bit more. The first half hour seemed a little disjointed, with a couple of scenes feeling somewhat out of place. The play tackles an important issue and this is perhaps why I found some of the more trivial scenes a little frustrating to sit through. However, when the crux of the story begins to unfold, it does so rather well. I particularly enjoyed the layering of the scenes with the liquidator (Richard Teverson) who has come to take James’ possessions away at the very same time that he is also losing other parts of his identity too.

There are enjoyable performances throughout this production and some very confident direction with good pieces of movement. However, I felt at times that there were poignant moments that were either rushed through or missed altogether. The monologues which conclude the play start off brilliantly, highlighting some of the more unjust aspects of the decline of Gaelic in Scotland but then they taper off into more diluted messages. From there, we’re left with more of a pleasant, smiley ending rather than the hard hitting one I assumed we were heading for.

Lovers of languages are recommended to attend and regulars at the Finborough are unlikely to be too disappointed. Everyone else will probably find this play enjoyable enough and if nothing else the whole audience will get to learn a fun drinking game and a few words of Gaelic!

Please feel free to leave your thoughts and opinions in the comments section below!

Somersaults runs at The Finborough Theatre until 26th January 2013.
Box Office: 0844 847 1652 or book online at

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