Created by Jess Thorpe and Tashi Gore
Glass Performance & Dundee Rep and Scottish Dance Theatre
30th March – 1st April 2023
Our life captured through tableaus—the years that have separated us, then brought us together again. Dear grandfather, you are my best friend, my blood, my idol. Tell me your story.
Old Boy offers an insight into Dundee’s boys and men, the history of familiar faces. Finn hasn’t even learned to walk, yet his grandfather Martin is here to share his story — just last year born but with so much ahead of him to learn. 10-year-old Harris has a special bond with his grandfather, David, talking about football, discussing the present, the future, and answering Harris’ hundreds of questions about David’s past, “What was life like when you were my age, granddad?”
Time passes us by without us noticing, it doesn’t grace us with moments worth wasting. 21-year-old Max cherishes every moment he can get with his grandfather Malcolm. Malcolm looks back to the post-war days in Dundee. Married by 21, he and his wife “got by just fine”. The audience listens to the multitude of worries that Max is faced with in 2023, and not one of those worries would have been familiar to young Malcolm. Time moves and changes, and new souls are brought along to make this world just a little better. That’s the power of inheritance; there are so many life-long lessons to be learned and the people who will teach them to you are so close—maybe only a few generations apart.
There is turmoil worth surpassing to keep your loved ones around. “Finn’s birth was traumatic”, Martin recalls, “My daughter had to have an emergency C-section.” “What have I missed out on, by being a step-father and a step-grandfather? Am I missing out? No!” is the powerful message that David portrays. “My grandson is the first to visit when I’m poorly in the hospital”, Malcolm says about his grandson Max, while audience members search their bags for a tissue.
The staging is plain and simple: a rug, a toy-box, a playhouse, a guitar. The minimalistic set design allows for space of mind, for peaceful listening and for the audience’s full enjoyment of the story-tellers (‘actors’ doesn’t quite fit as the performers are locals sharing their real stories). The music is suited to the scene as the story-tellers share heart-to-hearts with the audience. Movement is minimal but in every sense naturally human. Malcolm’s proud eyes as Max delivers his karate sequence light up the room, and the audience can imagine that—in that moment — all of Max’s childhood years are playing through his grandfather’s head. The flashbacks in Old Boy are perfectly constructed, and each duo offered the perfect balance of blasts from the past, present-day life and glimpses into the future.
In the words of the directors of Old Boy, Jess Thorpe and Tashi Gore, “Maybe it’s a bit of a tear-jerker, but it’s also really funny. And so it’s just that, well, it’s kind of like what family life is like! Some moments you’re laughing, other moments you’re crying. And it’s real stories told by men and boys from Dundee.”
The play Old Boy touched my heart in a very unexpected way. It was very inviting, and I felt like the stories being told were giving me a warm hug. The energy in the room at the Dundee Rep was so serene; each one of us in the audience enjoyed the boys and men’s performance onstage, and also its great content. The play as a whole was a sweet reminder of how important familial love is. The freeze-frame poses that the story-tellers take once they’ve finished telling their story remind us that time is passing—the tableaus after every duet were the perfect way to end each sequence.