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Exploration of emigration hits mostly right note

Review: My English Tongue, My Irish Heart at Waterfront Hall

By Grainne McFadden

"If ever a nation told its story through song, that's us" - and so the cast of Martin Lynch's new play have been chosen as much for their singing as their acting abilities.

His exploration of that Irish pastime, emigration, comes as much through the songs which 'are a soundtrack to the country' as through the spoken word.

Lynch has used Liam Harte's book The Literature Of The Irish In Britain as the basis for this production, which tells the story of current day couple Gary (Co Mayo) and Susan (Co Tyrone) alongside those of men and women down the centuries who have sailed away from Ireland in search of a brighter future.

Performed in the round, on a raised black stage and without props, the drama skips back and forth through the centuries from AD 398 to the Manchester of today.

Weaving many different songs and stories of emigration through the main narrative of our modern couple, who are torn between remaining in Ireland or stretching their ambitions beyond its shoreline, is a large undertaking for the hard-working cast of five.

They play a multitude of characters while singing their Irish hearts out.

The result is a pot pourri of experiences, some memorable, others less so, along with an interesting discussion about how and why those born elsewhere can still regard themselves as Irish.

More exploration of this might have added to our understanding of the confusion of those who speak with English tongues, but whose hearts long for Ireland.

Three stars

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