Emigration Road is the third “play for voices” each devised and directed by Eamon Grennan, and performed by Tegolin Knowland and Sean Coyne. Like the first two, this piece is also a kind of audio collage by means of which the subject in question (life on Inis Meáin in the earlier 20th Century; the Great Irish Famine; and now “Emigration”) is explored from various angles. In each case, our hope is that something of the facts and something of the feelings attaching to each of these subjects will be communicated to the audience.
A common denominator in all three might be the idea of “home.” For the small, integrated island world of Inis Meáin offers an intense version of the notion of “home,” while the catastrophe we know as the Great Hunger surely brought about the destruction of the larger island of Ireland, exploding for so many the very notion of home. For the most part in this present “dramatic recital for two voices,” then, we’re trying to represent something of the consequences of that explosion, that catastrophe. For emigration is, in so many ways, simply the enforced search for a new home, while so many of the emotions connected with it concern the nature of, the lamenting for, or even the relief to be away from at last, the old home and all it meant for those leaving and those left behind.
Since the world of emigration is so much more various than the world represented in Hunger or The Aran Islands, Emigration Road is less centered than its predecessors. It wanders about historically and geographically in its references, while the voices brought to life by us can be of the present or the past, can be those of emigrants or can be contemporary with ourselves. And while Sean’s principle persona is that of a sort of country Everyman, someone who keeps you in touch with the common sense of the subject, Tegolin gives voice to a wider range of characters – Irish, English, and American — caught up, whether through song or speech, in it all.
It’s worth adding, too, in case something else is expected, that the emigration in question — after a more wide-ranging historical prologue–is emigration to the United States. As with the other pieces, though, the main intention is to convey something of the feelings that attach – probably for all of us – to that big word in our Irish life, “emigration.