Makin Theatre, Liverpool John Moores University
18th - 20th June 2015
‘Home’ is a powerful and engrossing piece of theatre. Throughout
the performance, I was convinced we were all on a beach in Australia.
Produced by Irish theatre group AnNua, it’s directed by Paula Simms
and written by Paul Moore (who also starred, alongside John Graham Davies).
This production has been almost 2 years in the making. Using the words
of Irish migrants, immigrants to Ireland, and refugees from across the
world, it was a simple story that masked a genuine depth and complexity.
It was a study in identity and land, about where you called home. It also
raised critical issues of clashes of cultures, racism, genocides, inhumanity,
and about why we still just can’t get on.
The set was a sparse beach with a small fire prepared close to the audience.
In the semi-darkness, we can see lights in the distance. There is also
a man in a hobo hat with his back to us. Sounds of water drifted through
the air, along with a plaintive Uileann Pipes melody. The lighting shifts,
and we can see that there is a canvas sheet covering something to the
side. A pirate flag on a pole sticks out of it. The man in the hat comes
round to light the fire. The real fire he intends to light will be revealed
in a minute…
The lighting shifts as the flame takes hold. (Incidentally, the lighting
designer deserves huge credit for excellent and atmospheric work throughout).
“Ah”, he begins. “Ah”. He looks and sounds like
one of Beckett’s hobo heroes. Maybe he’s waiting for Godot,
too. He’s talking to his Gran. Her voice drifts along with the water.
He remembers them having “2 starfish in our heads”. He reminisces
about life in the Motherland. “I’m Ireland in my body and
voice,” describing the place “a wee world with big problems.”
Then his accent shifts and he’s not Irish at all, he’s Australian.
The banshees start singing and death is calling. He jumps up and pulls
back the canvas sheet to reveal…a police sergeant. Chained, hands
and feet. Jimmy trains a short rifle on him, menacingly. He’s the
one who’s representing all the victims of historical police brutality.
“I am all your victims!” he shouts. He wants revenge in particular
for this officer’s shooting dead a Maori man named Raymond Thomas.
He got a medal for bravery for it. He wonders why there’s only been
one armed uprising in 200 years of Australian history, the 1854 Eureka
Stockade. The policeman asks him if he’s in the IRA. No. His country
is called ‘All Around You’, with no flag but the sky, kites
for an airforce, and whose language is poetry. He pulls a pistol out.
By killing this policeman, he’ll symbolically kill them all. He’s
going to make history, to even the score, for the all the victims of police
brutality, the murdered, the dispossessed, the refugees, and the migrants.
Jimmy is the avenging angel.
He remembers leaving Liverpool on the Patrice (and how ugly it looked
compared with the photograph). Singapore was a revelation. “No-one
is ugly in Singapore”. Then the lighting changes as he goes back
to his Irish accent. The policeman knows a crazy person when he sees one.
“You’ve got a war going on in your head”, he shouts.
Sergeant insists he’s not a bloody Nazi. Then Jimmy’s gran’s
voice, speaking softly to him. He remembers being able to sit next to
girls in school. And doing sex education, where he learned how girls lay
eggs. He tells her he’s being physically changed by the New World:
his hair, his voice, his skin. The land gets into your body. He mockingly
repeats the anti-Irish jokes that have dogged him, the casual racism dressed
up in humour’s clothes.
Sergeant tells him “I’m on your side”, insisting they’re
just the same. He only took the job to pay the bills, and to help bring
justice to the world. Imagine if the police weren’t here. Jimmy
brandishes the gun, a man with no control seeking it, when it accidentally
goes off, shooting the Sergeant in the leg. Jimmy applies a tourniquet,
whilst going off on another reverie, imagining his drunken dad after his
mam has left them. It’s clear that Jimmy is a man broken by the
dislocated migrant experience and the unraveling of his family.
When Jimmy speaks of the people in the Mediterranean, out there floating
on coffin ships, it brings the subject matter right up to date. Sadly,
this play couldn’t be more topical. As he speaks, haunting images
of desperate migrants (women, men, children) are projected onto the back
wall, giving a human face to the grim headlines and statistics. Losing
blood and hope, Sergeant admits he shouldn’t have hurt Jimmy, saying
“you become the things you thought you’d never be.”
He explains the circumstances around how he came to kill Raymond confesses
how it was his white-hot anger and racism that led him to pumping 3 bullets
into him. The ghosts are coming to have their say.
As ‘Waltzing Mathilda’ plays on the clarinet, Jimmy outlines
how European migrants “spread like dull water” across the
face of the world, and subsequent global, genocidal assault on indigenous
peoples everywhere. He mentions famous Aboriginal leader Yagan, who in
punishment for his resistance was beheaded and his mummified head sent
to Liverpool. This was a lovely local reference, as I remember the campaign
from 1995 to repatriate Yagan’s head for proper burial in his homeland.
Jimmy feels that “we are men and women at an end. Time itself has
aged.” We stopped truly living a long time ago, desensitised consumers,
watching our widescreen televisions made by slaves. The piece ends dramatically
with Sergeant crying, telling Jimmy to just kill him. Jimmy comes behind
him, pointing the gun at his head, face in shadow, whilst he talks poignantly
to Gran’s ghost. Whether he will pull the trigger or not is the
It’s a work in progress - and with room for improvement, certainly
– but it was still a beautifully written and performed work, which
has hugely important points to make. I loved the way our sympathy shifted
between the characters. It shows real compassion for the plight of refugees
in this world. And laments the gulf of space between us, we who should
It could go on to become a classic.
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