Edinburgh Festival Fringe theatre review: Eating Seals and Seagulls’ Eggs, reviewed by The Scotsman’s Alison Kerr.
For maybe the first third of this absorbing two-hander, it has the feel of a drama-documentary – and one which, like the best documentaries, is so intriguingly handled that it really doesn’t matter if it’s a subject that you wouldn’t normally go near. The subject here is multi-faceted: the Irish language, an icon of that Irish language detested with a passion by generations of Irish schoolchildren, the erosion of a culture and being made to feel like an alien in your own country.
Written by Catriona Ni Mhurchu, this piece features her as Peig Sayers, who as an old woman and one of the oldest residents of the fantastically remote Blasket Islands in the 1930s, was persuaded to dictate her life story, a story in which misery is heaped upon misery.
What’s intriguing about her is that her spoken story became compulsory reading on the school curriculum for decades although her memoir was reckoned to be rich in embellishments and exaggeration. Her story became a book, the physical embodiment of the native Irish language, just at the point that her language was dying.
And what’s also intriguing from the outset of the play is the battle for the Blasket Islands which were sold from under their residents’ feet by the Irish government and caused them to be forced to move – a desperately sad period which is movingly evoked in the play with effective use of newsreel footage and stark excerpts from letters and telegrams.
The only drawback to this compelling – and striking-looking – piece is the fact that it is, at times, impenetrable in its density of layers. Quite a bit goes over the non-Irish head – what was the reference to McDonald’s, for example? Still, unanswered questions are just more things to Google, along with Sayers herself, as soon as the lights go up.
Pleasance Dome (Venue 23) until 30 August / listings
Published in The Scotsman on 18 August 2015
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