My English Tongue, My Irish Heart
Until 9th May 2015
Touring Donegal, Leitrim, Mayo, Kerry, Manchester and London
This is a remarkable look at Irish men and women emigrating to England and the heartbreak such journeys have caused through the generations. Although there are many stories woven into this piece of theatre, we follow the two principals, Protestant Susan from Northern Ireland and Catholic Gary from the South. Both university graduates who meet and fall in love. She wants to get away from sectarian tensions, he prefers saying at home where he knows who he is, he doesn’t want to become another ‘Paddy’ in the big city of London. However they do emigrate, make a success in England and start a family.
Theirs is a fairly typical story as it turns out, as playwright Martin Lynch weaves in so many examples of generations who have left their native shores for some reason or another.
We get close to the action sitting round a black cube in the middle of the Waterfront Studio, we experience the crisis of identity, the divided loyalty and the yearning for Ireland. Lynch has worked with Dr. Liam Harte and based the play on Heate’s book The Literature of the Irish in Britain, so in many ways this is a history lesson but you’ve never had a history lesson presented like this before.
The singing, the dancing, the quick fire repartee, the comedy and the pathos hold the audience enthralled and there’s no doubt we identify with the story lines and the people become very real. When these excellent actors sing The Parting Glass unaccompanied and in harmony it all becomes very real.
Being separated from all you love is a dreadful thing. For Gary and Susan the dilemma is solved by their eldest son, a rugby enthusiastic who wears the Irish shirt when supporting his dad’s team. As he gets older he makes his own shirt, with a rose on one breast and a shamrock on the other. Through the generations you can adapt but can you ever leave the love of Ireland behind?
By Anne Hailes