Cheering on the homebirds
There are several moments which stick in your mind from a performance of “I’m A Homebird (It’s Very Hard)”, which closed its run at Dublin’s Project on Saturday night. There’s the Nadine Coyle love-in, the championing of the Girls Aloud …
There are several moments which stick in your mind from a performance of “I’m A Homebird (It’s Very Hard)”, which closed its run at Dublin’s Project on Saturday night. There’s the Nadine Coyle love-in, the championing of the Girls Aloud hoofer by Homebird writer and performer Shaun Dunne. There’s the ease at which the three onstage flit from monologues to choreographed dance moves. There’s the non-stop rush of ideas and notions and thoughts which come out in a flood of emotion, just as they would in real life when you’ve a bunch of twentysomethings discussing whether they should stay or go.
But there was one line towards the end which was still running in my mind the following day: “there’s a fucking renaissance going on”. That comes in the middle of Dunne’s final speech before the stage goes black, as he talks about the reasons why someone should stay in Ireland rather than joining the thousands who’ve already left or are planning to depart for London, Germany, Australia, Canada and other places out foreign. Homebird is about that choice, but that particular line puts another iron in the fire.
There’s no blame game in Homebird. As the notes which go with the show put it, “it is not about guilt or judgement on those who have have to leave; the reasons are completely understandable”. You only have to look at the headlines of a morning to see the extent of Ireland’s economic woes and you don’t have to be an economist to work out what this means for the generation of kids who are about to start or who have been looking for work. No-one is asking why these kids are leaving instead of staying. We know the reasons all too well.
But Homebird is about making a very deliberate choice to go against the grain and then standing up for that choice. Not everyone is leaving, not everyone is taking the road which Irish Times’ letter writer Cian Caffrey described the other day, where you take “your skills, your education and your work ethic and apply them in a country where you are appreciated” (in his case, Australia). Instead of doing that, Dunne is making a stand for those who are vehement about staying here and making a difference, about taking their skills, their education and their work ethic and applying them in a country where they are needed, instead of seeking appreciation elsewhere. Again, from the show notes, “we have the choice to make things better, to redefine what we have here, to be both realistic and more idealistic about how we can begin to build Ireland again”.
While it’s clear that Homebird doesn’t play the blame game about those who have left, it does baulk at those who sneer at those who remain and the Ireland they left behind. We’ve seen this aspect of the emigration game again and again in the last couple of years and it’s understandable because those who left are bitter about why they’ve had to leave. Yet, as Dunne points out, such an attitude is infuriating to those who remain. There’s a job of work to be done and it requires people with new ideas, fresh thinking and innovative methods. You don’t get that amongst the lads and lasses in the Dail, that’s for sure. But many of those with the ideas and will to change things are leaving and trash-talking the country as they do so. It’s easier, after all, to give out than contribute.
Dunne’s enthusiasm for a renaissance isn’t just some sort of dramatic trope. There is a change in the air and there are people (the kids that Dunne’s work is aimed at, mostly) doing new things in art, theatre, music and performance. These endeavours are happening well away from the mainstream because that’s the place where you can go to develop and finetune your work at your own pace. It’s also happening there because those involved don’t really want to have any truck with the mainstream for now and the mainstream certainly is in no great hurry to embrace them either.
Homebird makes you think about people we don’t think about all that much. When people talk about the lost generation, they’re usually refering those who’ve left this country and have no firm plans to come back. Sure, changes in technology and transport means they’re in constant contact with the country and can come back here at the drop of a hat on a cheap Ryanair flight. But there’s also a significant proportion of that generation who haven’t gone anywhere and have no plans to go anywhere. Perhaps it’s high time we concentrated a bit more on those who’ve stayed here, and like Dunne says, cheer them on. After all, it’s these homebirds rather than any diaspora-in-waiting overseas (who think virtual ballot boxes are the way forward) are the only ones who can help us get out of the mess created by our elders and so-called betters.