Review: Before the End

A daughter's thoughtprovoking tribute to her father

★★★
theatre review (edinburgh) | Read in About 2 minutes
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Before the End
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Published 09 Aug 2019

Were this a show solely about the late Belgium lawyer, Michel Graindorge, it would be plenty interesting enough. A man deeply committed to due process and human rights, whose arrest on charges of aiding a client escape inspired protests, and who continued receiving clients at his bed on the ward before his death in 2015, he comes across as an idealistic powerhouse.

His thoughts and journals permeate this tribute by his daughter, violinist and performer Catherine, and are both smart and poignant. His absolute commitment to institutional justice, and simultaneous awareness that they are fallable and must be fought for, are valuable sentiments right now.

But that's not all it is. Far from being overshadowed by her father, it's Catherine Graindorge who emerges as a sensitive, kind and loving translator of a life well-lived. And translation it is, through an inventive collection of song, pre-record, live video and monologue. She trips over her words—"leeterature, it's hard to say [with a French accent]"—drawing attention to the artifice of squeezing a life into an hour. An opening sequence where she sets text blocks under a camera is particularly effective. Is she a typsetter setting an obituary, or writing the news? Looking to the past or living in the present? Grief has a funny way of confusing that.

The music, created live with violin, effects, and loop pedal, is moving, expressing both optimism and grief. Overall the score feels a little one-tone – opportunities for solo violin to settle into more rhythmical forms are missed in place of a general synthy, reverby ambient swell. But there's enough going on that this doesn't detract from a gentle, thoughtful hour.