FISHWIVES' TALE: Dublin playwright breaks the silence about life as a woman in Ireland

FISHWIVES' TALE: Dublin playwright breaks the silence about life as a woman in Ireland

PLAYWRIGHT Sharon Byrne leaned on her experience growing up in 1980s Dublin to write a play which allowed her to “break the silence” around the lives women lead in her homeland.

The Dubliner, who is now based on Whitstable, Kent, lived close to a fish factory in her youth and watched as many “resilient” and “hard-working” Irish women came and went from their jobs there on a daily basis.

Fast forward a few decades and the lives of those women are immortalised in Byrne’s play Gutted.

After making a successful debut at The Marlowe Theatre Canterbury in 2017 the play was also a hit at the Edinburgh Festival in 2018 and this year sees it take on a UK-wide tour.

Set in an Irish fish factory, the poignant black comedy explores the lives of three strong women (played by Eleanor Byrne, Niamh Finlay and Sarah Hosford).


Through comic monologue the women give the audience a snapshot of the characters and challenges in their lives at the time.

So there is certainly humour, but Byrne has not shied away from tackling some of the heavier issues also.

Themes of family trust, love and loss are examined, along with issues of domestic violence and abortion, which Byrne claims remain as relevant today as they were over 30 years ago.

She explains: “Growing up close to a fish factory in Dublin, I was intrigued by the charismatic and resilient women who I’d see travelling to and from work there.

"They were tough, hard-working women, but they never stopped chatting and laughing.”

The playwright adds: “Life as a woman in Ireland still has its – often suppressed – challenges, and I felt compelled to raise awareness of these issues and help break the silence.”

Byrne, whose first play Charlie’s Wake was performed at the Finborough Theatre in Earl’s Court in 2001, has been a playwright for 15 years, having now written three plays and two screenplays.


She has a degree in Creative Writing from the University of Middlesex and has lectured in Playwriting and Screenwriting for nearly ten years.

Directed by Chris White, Gutted will tour 15 UK venues between October 3 and 29, including stops in Aylesbury, Basildon, Hemel Hempstead, Watford, Crawley and the Irish Cultural Centre in Hammersmith.

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