Today I saw ‘Laundry’, as part of the Dublin Theatre Festival. I could write chapters about what I saw today. As soon as I stepped inside the disused Magdalene Laundry in Sean Mcdermott Street, it was like stepping inside a time machine. The smell of Jeyes fluid seeped into every pore, I felt like I was outside the Principles office -I was scared stiff.
There is only one member of the audience in each room, so you immediately feel the physical proximity and emotional intensity, but more than that, the girls are pleading, begging, looking straight into your eyes – you can feel their breath on your skin. I wanted to hug them, take care of them – stop the incarceration. I felt scared, but also enraged.
In one room, an actress lists the number of violations of human rights to each captive women – it seemed an endless list. When the proclaimation of 1916 was read on the steps of the GPO – they promised to protect every man, woman and child!
If Ireland was still under British rule when these institutions were created we would have been abhorred. Yet we did this to ourselves. It made me sick to my stomach and enraged.
I have read about the Magdalene Laundry’s, watched a movie on telly about them, even heard Mary Coughlan sing about them. But my god, nothing hammered the point home like the play I experienced last week.
If I was still working I wouldn’t have volunteered for the Dublin Theatre Festival, and I probably wouldn’t have gotten around to see Laundry. It has had a deep impact on my beliefs and my identity.
It has changed my outlook completly on what makes good theatre – it is like stepping inside their world. Moving away from the ring-side seat and up onto the stage – I became part of the theatrical experience, and it was overpowering.
(picture from Dublin Theatre Website)