Theatre Review: Before The End, Summerhall, Edinburgh

Just before he died in 2015, Michel Graindorge, a famous lawyer and public figure in his native Belgium, asked his daughter, the violinist and theatre-maker Catherine Graindorge, to make a show about him.

Violinist Catherine Graindorge pays tribute to her grandfather.
Violinist Catherine Graindorge pays tribute to her grandfather.

Before The End, Summerhall, Edinburgh * * *

She had no shortage of material, whether from his colourful career – he was jailed for four months in 1979, accused of assisting a gangster’s escape from the courtroom – or his fear of death and various near-death experiences, or her own journey through grief.

READ MORE: 10 top-rated theatre and dance shows returning to Edinburgh in 2019In this rich piece of storytelling theatre, Catherine touches on all this and more, combining music (her own) and television footage with extracts from her father’s writings and elements of her own experience. And the story has all the raw power of a true tale told by one who knows it intimately.

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    But with so much to draw on, the play must make up its mind what it wants to be: a documentary about Graindorge’s extraordinary life; an investigation into what really happened in the gangster case; a story about grief and father-daughter love; a delve into family history? A greater degree of focus would make the play stronger, even if some material had to be sacrificed in the process.

    Until 25 August