Following the story of an Irish emigrant’s relationship with her father,
A well-rounded play that is unassuming yet ultimately satisfying.
Maeve (Liz Fitzgibbon) is forced to leave her beloved Ireland for New Zealand after the economic crash, inadvertently signs up for swimming lessons during one of the aftershocks of the Christchurch earthquake. The lessons become a way for Maeve to work through her complex relationship with her father (David Heap), taking her back to an incident as a child when he saved her from drowning. The show is Orla Murphy’s playwriting debut, and has been shortlisted for several awards, and deservedly so. Murphy confidently juggles some subtle imagery, and her portrait of a father-daughter relationship is believable and moving.
Heap is fantastic as Maeve’s father Johnny, radiating Irish charm and endowing Johnny with a vague, mystical quality which reflects the important place he holds in Maeve’s psyche. Fitzgibbon also shines as Maeve, particularly during the more emotional scenes and her poetic monologues in the swimming pool. The audience felt her experiences of love and loss powerfully, but she could have done with a few more idiosyncrasies to make her easier to get hold of as a character.
Murphy’s prose is delicate and haunting, and her stripped back staging results in some powerfully poetic scenes when she occasionally moves away from naturalism. Her storytelling is always engaging, although the narrative suffers slightly from having too many different experiences crammed into it: economic insecurity, homesickness, and living through a natural disaster are all explored. Most of these themes are given the space they deserve, although perhaps the play could have benefited from a more detailed sketch of the impact of the Christchurch earthquakes.
This aside, Murphy has delivered a high quality debut. It’s not the most adventurous piece at the Fringe, but it never tries to be. Remember to Breathe is a well-rounded play that is unassuming yet ultimately satisfying.