Belfast Telegraph

Martin Lynch's powerful new play 'My English Tongue, My Irish Heart' explores Irish emigration to England

By Ricky Thompson

An exciting new play telling the story of Irish emigration to England is to be the first of its kind produced in Belfast.

My English Tongue, My Irish Heart, is a 'powerful and moving' new drama that tells the story of Irish people emigrating through the generations, exploring the perplexities of living with, and between, two worlds.

The play, created by the highly-respected playwright Martin Lynch, centres on a young, educated couple - Gary, a southern Irish Catholic, and Susan, a Northern Irish Protestant - who take the momentous decision to emigrate to England.

Their contemporary story of migration is criss-crossed by the stories of those who have gone before them, from lawyers and labourers to pickpockets, politicians and professional street preachers.

Mr Lynch has promised his audiences they'll see a highly innovative production, unique to Belfast's entertainment scene and fully expects audience participation.

He said: "I can say without a doubt that audiences will be gripped by this story and are in for a great night's entertainment. There's drama, history, heartbreak, love, you name it.

"It has a fantastic soundtrack of the best Irish music from Count John McCormick to Paul Brady and The Pogues."

The groundbreaking play is the result of a collaboration between the award-winning Lynch and Mayo-born literary scholar, now at Manchester University, Dr Liam Harte. It's Mr Harte's book, The Literature of Irish in Britain: Autobiography and Memoir, 1725-2001, on which the play is based.

Mr Harte said: "Although much has been written about the Irish emigrant experience, this is the first time a play of this kind has been staged anywhere in these islands.

"It weaves together gripping historical accounts of what it felt like to be Irish in Britain with a very contemporary story of how emigration changes the lives of a modern-day couple. This play could hardly be more topical."

The play will start its tour at two Belfast community centres from both sides of the religious divide. It will then move to the Waterfront Hall Studio for a full week before embarking on an Irish tour, eventually moving across the water to Manchester and Camden.

Part of the box office proceeds of the tour will be donated to two emigrant welfare charities - the a Return to Ireland Project in London and the Safe Home Programme in Mayo.

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