It’s that time of year in Edinburgh when every corner of the city turns into a potential venue for arts and entertainment. Pop-up stages cover typically open spaces and street performers claim territory on sidewalks and cobbled streets. It’s festival season in Edinburgh! And I couldn’t be more pleased with the introduction I’ve had to the 2016 Edinburgh Fringe Festival in watching the appropriately named play, Remember to Breathe.
As an expat, this story from Irish writer Orla Murphy hit so very close to home. Remember to Breathe easily conveys the struggle of leaving home while leaving a piece of your heart behind. The hour I spent captivated by this story had me laughing, crying, and feeling as if part of my own life was on stage.
That was me in the main character, Maeve O’Driscoll, as she felt trapped taking a job straight after university. She needed to explore and to feel free, so she left to travel despite reservations expressed by others.
That was me in Maeve as she struggled to stay in touch with her family back home, as she shared major life moments over broken connections from afar. That was me in Maeve as she wavered in deciding where to live and how to avoid hurting those she loved most in those decisions.
Every expat will relate to this struggle as we listen to Maeve’s inner thoughts and hear her conversations with her father. Every emigrant will relate to the feeling of disconnect and heartache when major moments in life must be shared over great distances, forcing us to question our decisions and to constantly weigh our options…
Do we follow our hearts to wherever makes us happy? Do we compromise on that happiness to instead be close to family for support or to care for them when needed? Do we leave home for better job opportunities, or better lifestyles, or better education – or do we stay just because that’s easier and more familiar? Do we allow our past to determine our future?
Maeve’s story is particularly focused on her relationship with her father, but all of us who have left home understand that struggle of distance between loved ones.
Maeve’s story is centered on the Irish economic boom and bust, as well as the devastating earthquake in New Zealand; but all of us have experienced external factors that have dictated our next steps forward.
Writer/Director Orla Murphy says, “I am interested in the incremental choices people make to get them through the day. In life, to take a breath is the most fundamental choice of all. I wanted to explore the difficulty of finding balance when the ground is literally and metaphorically constantly shifting underfoot.”
It is a feeling anyone who’s been far from home and loved ones can understand. “Those feelings of instability are exacerbated by being far from home,” Murphy continues. “Split between here and there, when your heart is in one place even as your feet walk streets on the other side of the world.”
I saw Remember to Breathe on a whim as free tickets became available through a friend of a friend for their first preview show. But I won’t be surprised to find myself seeing it again before this festival season is over. It evoked so many emotions in me that I’m not sure I was able to simultaneously embrace them all.
And, in case you were wondering, my half-Irish husband was right there beside me, teary-eyed and just as floored by how intimately connected Maeve’s story was to our own.
If you’re in Edinburgh, go see Remember to Breathe. If you’ve never traveled and never left home, it may not impact you the same way it did us. But I guarantee you will still relate to Maeve as she desperately tries to find her footing while her proverbial and real world crumble around her.
Learn More About Remember to Breathe
Edinburgh Fringe Festival details:
Venue: Summerhall (The Demonstration Room through the garden and around the tent at the back)
Duration: 55 minutes
Dates: August 5-14, 16-27
Read The Reviews Hub review of Remember to Breathe
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