Catherine Ireton has a disarming voice and in Leaving Home Party she uses it to tell the story of how she left home, returned, and left again. Her personal story is used to explore the notion of home, and what it means in this age of mobility. In Ireland, the place Ireton left, there’s a tradition called the American Wake. It’s a party of stories and songs to say goodbye to emigrants, encouraging them to embrace their new life. Leaving Home Party is Ireton’s, and her audience’s, American Wake; a story told to encourage us all to embrace our lives wherever we are, here and now or, as Ireton says, “a leaving home party to arrive”.
The performance sits somewhere between gig, storytelling and musical. Ireton is accompanied on stage by musician Ignacio Agrimbau who plays a mixture of traditional folk instruments including the Bodhrán from Ireland, Buvu and Hulusi from China and Shruti box from India. It is, however, only at the end of the performance that Ireton introduces them both and I think this would have fit better at the beginning. Not knowing who Agrimbau was, and if he was part of the story or there just as an accompanist was slightly jarring. I think the performance would be elevated if the on stage relationship between him and Ireton was clearer.
Projected film is used sparingly to illustrate certain parts of the story and this is another element that would benefit from development. In its current form the film didn’t add much, were it there more and its role in the performance more considered, it could be a lovely addition. The film that is used has a home-movie quality that works well with the story. In general the whole show has a very homely sense to it, by which I mean it’s something you can imagine being performed in someone’s living room at an American Wake.
Ireton has an astonishing voice and she constantly surprised me with her ability to jump between vocal ranges. There’s a very pure quality to it that fits the folk style of singing she adopts, and there’s something of Joni Mitchell about her singing style. Her stage presence is utterly charming and the story one that gets right into your heart.
I think everyone can understand the sentiment Ireton expresses early on that “your journey begins when you leave home”. The frustration between a desire for adventure and finding yourself stuck in one place is brilliantly captured in a section that tells of how Ireton found herself stuck in Edinburgh, even though she didn’t really feel it was her home. Colour is used very nicely as a theme tying the story together, from the excitement of all the colours seen from the plane from Ireland to the UK, to a sudden realisation her life is devoid of colour, and she is depressed.
By the time we reach the end we have all been on a journey with Ireton, and probably retraced our own journeys to where we are right now. Leaving Home Party has an Indie film vibe about it; it’s sweet, honest and quirky. As a piece of theatre making it won’t blow you away, but it’s an enjoyable and relatable story with an honest and positive message.
For information on upcoming performances by Catherine Ireton please see the Catherine Ireton website.