Reality of life in Ireland’s ‘shameful’ Magdalene laundries exposed in new show

Reality of life in Ireland’s ‘shameful’ Magdalene laundries exposed in new show

A NEW theatre production tackles the brutal reality of Ireland’s controversial mother and baby homes.

The Ireland We Dreamed of uses dance, spoken word and aerial performance to tell the tale of the nation’s historical incarceration of its young women.

Its title is taken from a quote by Éamon de Valera in 1947, where he stated: “The Ireland that we dreamed of would be the home of a the life that God desires.”

Kate Finegan, Vitor Bassi and Fiona Quilligan perform a scene from The Ireland We Dreamed of outside the Magdalene Laundry, Our Lady of Charity building in Dublin

Directed by visual artist Sinead McCann, the script has been written by sociologist Dr Louise Brangan, whose recent BBC audio essay The Legacy of the Laundries reflected on the period in Irish history.

Dr Brangan, who is chancellor’s fellow at the School of Social Work and Social Policy at University of Strathclyde, has recently completed her first non-fiction book, which is dedicated to unveiling the truth of Ireland’s mother and baby homes.

“All societies, even the most stable, can slip into extreme intolerance, in that way, Ireland was no exception in the 20th century, but the scale of Ireland’s carceral system sets it apart,” Dr Brangan says.

“And in a regime distinguished by its excessive inhumanity, the Magdalene laundries were its deep end.”

“How could this happen? What was it like to live like this?” she asks.

“These are questions which I have so long yearned for answers, and I don’t think I am alone in that need for clarity, as this generation has been forced to grapple with the legacies of the laundries.

“Joining forces with Sinead McCann and these other incredible artists, we explore through sound and dance all that went unsaid and unseen”.

Kate Finegan performing a scene from The Ireland We Dreamed of, which will be shown at the Smock Alley Theatre next month

McCann believes audiences will find their unique telling of the story deeply profound when it opens in Dublin next month.

“Through sound, dance, spoken word and aerial performance the human stories behind this shameful period in Irish history will be told in a truly unique and profound way,” she said.

“While familiar with the narratives of laundries, the imagery of lost infants, malevolent nuns, and uniforms, seldom have these tales been depicted in such a personal light,” she explained.

“We hope that viewers may find themselves reflecting on these individuals' stories and the complexities of family dynamics and belonging”.

The Ireland We Dreamed of will take to the stage at Smock Alley Theatre from May 2-4. Tickets cost €20.