Leaving Home Party
Catherine Ireton

Edinburgh Festival Fringe Scotsman review (theatre): Leaving Home Party at Summerhall (Venue 26). Reviewed by David Pollock

Catherine Ireton

“You can always come back if you don’t like it,” said Catherine Ireton’s dad to his daughter as he saw her off at Shannon Airport in 2005.

She repeats the words like a mantra, singing in her soft, angelic voice, incanting her most thoroughly imprinted memories of the day she left her home in Limerick (translation into Irish: “a barren spot of land”): her father’s words; and the green, blue and white of the panorama before her eyes as the plane tipped into the air.

She’d had no leaving home party, and she was only going to Glasgow. She could always go back if she didn’t like it.

The drama of Ireton’s song cycle story is gossamer-thin, but she interprets it wonderfully, not least because of the vocal talent she displays. She’s a bright-eyed and wistful presence onstage, and while some of her movements are stagily designed to keep the audience visually engaged – pacing the stage, climbing a stepladder, ascending the walkway amidst the seating – her voice is dazzling.

Backed by rootsy multi-instrumentalist Ignacio Agrimbau, she creates a kind of alternative opera out of folk and popular styles, never too eager or overdemanding with her delivery. Of course, she has previous form as the voice of Belle and Sebastian’s God Help the Girl project, and is a major talent in waiting. To listen to her all afternoon would be no hardship.

In terms of narrative, the piece sets out its stall cagily but does a wonderful job of turning nothing into something, which is precisely Ireton’s point.

She befriended musicians in Glasgow, and moved to Edinburgh but never really settled, all the time promising herself that the call centre job would be left behind and the dream of singing would be followed.

It wasn’t, and she comes to realise that the day in 2005 when she left home wasn’t the beginning of the story but the story itself. “Us Irish have always been good at leaving, generation upon generation,” she considers, as her thoughts return full circle to home, although the fact she’s here on stage waiting to be discovered is the unspoken fulfilment of the tale.

Until 23 August. Today 1:15pm, more info

Catherine Ireton’s angelic voice means it’s no hardship to listen to her rather thin tale of flying the nest

Originally published in The Scotsman

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