Pulse: The Truth About Your Father

The Truth about your Father, Pulse Festival, New Wolsey Studio, 13th June

The Truth about your Father, Pulse Festival, New Wolsey Studio, 13th June

The great problem with metaphors is that most metaphors are not really that great. They are either so inclusive as to be rather meaningless or so precise as not to be really relevant to the majority of circumstances in which they are applied.

The Truth about your Father struggles to overcome this problem. The play presents a Muslim mother's efforts to explain to her son the reason for his father's murderous actions on the tenth anniversary of his suicide bombing.

It starts well enough. At the scene of the original outrage, the mother pins up a sign declaring 'Not in my name' onto a white sheet already containing a range of different responses, some angry, some sad, to the atrocity. Fast forward 10 years to her kitchen and the mother, still battling with her own nausea at the killings and hounded by the media, realises her son is being teased at school and attempts to explain what happened.

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In doing so, Eleanor Martin as the mother shifts the perspective away from the claustrophobic intimacy between her and her child to encompass the whole audience in a series of stories in the belief that you “can't approach these issues head on”.

Addressing the theatre with a mixture of acting and song (the boy largely forgotten it would seem), Martin is certainly progressively impressive in her re-telling of stories from the Middle East, China and India. She has the gift of near metamorphosis in becoming a princess, a lowly woman who befriends a bird and a courtier in search of a mythical tree. She tells a good Mullah Nasaruddin gag as well. She would grace that very epitome of the living Arabic oral tradition - the Jemaa El Fna in Marrakesh. She is that compelling.

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Yet, she is even better in the real world context, but we see too little of that. When we do once again she is forced to explain the meaning of the metaphors in simple language for her now-remembered offspring and the reviewers and other thickies in the audience. Her explanation for her hubby's killing spree, is as open ended as “he deceived himself” or “he failed to balance the two sides of his character”.

This is meaningless. Where is the description of the man's journey towards murder and destruction? What prompted him to switch from being an internal to an external jihadist? Did he explain anything of his inner conflicts to her?

Therefore, we do not really get anywhere in uncovering the truth about the man. And I bet the boy's real reaction would have been similar. 'Nice stories mummy, now tell me the truth about daddy'.

Paul Simon

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