Matthew Zajac’s multi-award-winning The Tailor of Inverness is a story of journeys, of how a boy who grew up on a farm in Galicia (Eastern Poland, now Western Ukraine) came to be a tailor in Inverness.
His life spanned most of the 20th century. His story is not straightforward. He was taken prisoner by the Soviets in 1939 and forced to work east of the Urals, then freed in an amnesty after the German invasion of the Soviet Union in 1941. He then joined the thousands of Poles who travelled to Tehran, then Egypt, to be integrated into the British Army, fighting in North Africa and Italy. He was then resettled in Britain in 1948, joining his brother in Glasgow. This is the story he told.
But there is another story, and perhaps a third and a fourth one, for in order to survive, he had to adopt different identities. Like all immigrants, the tailor had to adapt and he did that very successfully, integrating himself into the fabric of Highland life. And fabric was perhaps the most important medium through which he achieved this. He made a variety of clothes for thousands of people, including himself, constructing the outward trappings which play a part in defining who we are. Fabric. Fabrication.
Crossing the borders from Ukraine to Poland to Russia to Iran to Egypt to Italy to Germany to Scotland, the fable reflects on several major conflicts in twentieth century history but is personal, intimate and rooted in two cultures: Galicia and the Highlands of Scotland. The play uses the central metaphor of the tailor and his fabric. Audio and video material made on a series of research trips in Poland and Ukraine is incorporated into a detailed overall design. Live violin weaves its way evocatively through the piece, with traditional and original songs and tunes from Scotland, Poland and Russia.