One woman show, The Daughters of Róisín, at the MAC

Due to popular demand, a second showing of Aoibh Johnson’s play, The Daughters of Róisín has been added on 22 September 2023.

The harrowing history of church and state-sanctioned abuse against unmarried women and their babies in Ireland is explored in Aoibh Johnson’s play, The Daughters of Róisín, at the MAC Belfast on 21 and 22 September, produced by Wee Yarn Productions and Sole Purpose Productions.

The one-woman show first saw its debut in Aoibh’s hometown of Coalisland, at Craic Theatre and Arts Centre in 2019. Directed by Cahal Clarke and written and performed by Aoibh, the production received rave reviews, which inspired the duo to bring the work across the globe to the Adelaide Fringe Festival, South Australia in 2020, with their production company Wee Yarn Productions. Since their return, the play has had sell-out performances in The Duncairn, Belfast and The New Theatre, Dublin.

Writer, Aoibh Johnson, shared that she wrote this piece while studying Feminist Protest Theatre during her Master's degree at Ulster University, Magee in Derry.

Aoibh commented, “I was studying Feminist Protest Theatre and I started to consider what I had to protest about as a young Irish woman. I was passionate about the use of historical archives and retelling stories that have been forgotten or overlooked. The story is inspired by a true event that occurred within my immediate family, however, it really is written for every woman and every baby that was forced to suffer the horrors of that long period of Irish history. The last Magdalene laundry closed in 1996, it’s such recent history.

The play begins with a passionate recital of the poem, The Sons of Róisín, made famous by Dubliner, Luke Kelly. However, we soon realise this ghostly figure is more concerned with Ireland’s daughters. Through broken dialogue, song, poetry, and ghostly silence, Aoibh Johnson takes us on a deeply emotional journey as we watch the demise of a young, pregnant woman forced to hide from society.

Theatre critic Marianna Meloni remarked that the show was "excellent" and wrote, ‘The Daughters of Róisín is a heart-wrenching metaphorical drama. It’s a silent accusation at Irish society, with its Catholic backbone, for neglecting to look after its women, to pick them up when they’ve fallen. Seeing it just once might not be enough.

Director Cahal Clarke shared, “Aoibh’s performance is a thrilling theatrical experience. Myself and Aoibh both understand that at times it can feel incredibly uncomfortable and unnerving for the viewer, however, it’s beautifully balanced with moments of tenderness and humour.”

Civil rights activist and leader Bernadette Devlin McAliskey attended a performance of The Daughters of Róisín in September last year. She shared that the play and performance were, “Powerfully and brilliantly executed.” Bernadette also commented, “Believe me. This is more than special. This is inspired genius at every level. Don’t miss it.”

Sole Purpose Productions is working in association with Wee Yarn Productions to tour the play to venues in Ireland and the UK. There will be two performances at the MAC on 21 and 22 September. The first night sold out six weeks before show time and due to demand a second night has been put on. It will be going to the London Irish Centre in November.

Sole Purpose Productions is an award-winning theatre company that has been making theatre for social change for over 25 years. Artistic Director Patricia Bryne said, “We are committed to raising awareness of social issues that are important and matter in the lives of local and national communities. We are delighted to be working in association with Wee Yarn Productions to bring this magnificent play to the MAC.”

Sole Purpose is core funded by the Arts Council of Northern Ireland. Patricia Lavery, Head of Community Arts and Participation, commented, “Sole Purpose excel at bringing us challenging theatre productions which shine a light on the important social issues of our time and which demonstrate the power of the arts as a tool to create open discussion and stimulate social change.”

Feel free to keep up with Aoibh and Cahal’s work by following @weeyarnproductions and @solepurposeproductions on social media.

Purchase tickets here.