Eating Seals and Seagulls' Eggs

theatre review | Read in About 2 minutes
Published 11 Aug 2015

The title of this bittersweet, meandering piece of local history refers to the diet of the Gaelic-speaking inhabitants of Blasket, an island off the west coast of Ireland. And their feasting didn't stop there, with seaweed and wrens—roasted 15 to a skewer over open fires—also on the menu.

Or so Peig Sayers would have us believe. She was the real-life chief chronicler of the life of the 25 households that made up the island's community, and the storyteller responsible for over a million Gaelic words of Blasket island folklore, customs and horrendously depressing reminiscences. Playwright Caitríona Ní Mhurchú plays Peig herself, and Louise Lewis takes the part of one of the millions of schoolkids who came to hate her stories of dead children during her decades on the Irish school curriculum.

Ní Mhurchú is a well known Irish language children's author and actress. But this is her first original play, and it shows: the fascinating questions of Irish identity, false nostalgia and whether Peig was just a virtuoso lier, not a storyteller, are muddied by her slow-paced, directionless narrative. Further laden with Adam Gibney's video art and music from Bird in Snow, the piece often loses its way.

We're told, in a long interlude of archive recordings more suited to a radio play, that the last residents were forcibly evacuated from the island of Blasket in 1953, after being bedevilled by storms and hunger. Like the schoolchildren's grudging encounters with Peig, this piece doesn't leave you longing to return.