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New Dance Theatre Show: The Ireland we Dreamed of

Through dance, spoken word and aerial performance, a new theatre show will explore the historical incarceration of young Irish women

Fiona Quilligan performing a scene from "The Ireland We Dreamed of" outside the Magdalene Laundry, Our Lady of Charity on Sean McDermott Street in Dublin. Image Leon Farrell

A timely new dance theatre production explores what it was like to live in the shadow of Magdalene Laundries and Mother and Baby Homes. "The Ireland We Dreamed of" will take to the stage at Smock Alley Theatre from May 2-4. 

Under the direction of visual artist Sinead McCann, the production takes audiences on an emotional dreamscape featuring a cast of celebrated contemporary dancers and aerial performers. With a narrative inspired by real-life accounts, the script is penned by sociologist Dr. Louise Brangan, known for her recent BBC audio essay 'The Legacy of the Laundries'. Tickets for the show are priced at €20.

The show's director, Sinead McCann, anticipates that Irish audiences will find the unique telling of the story deeply profound:

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

Written by Dr. Louise Brangan, following extensive research spanning more than three years, this show delves into a topic that holds significant personal importance to the author:

“All societies, even the most stable, can slip into extreme intolerance”. Explains Brangan. “In that way, Ireland was no exception in the 20th Century. But the scale of Ireland’s carceral system sets it apart. 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? 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”.

‘The Ireland We Dreamed of’ will showcase compelling performances by contemporary dancers Vitor BassiFiona Quilligan, and the aerial performer and movement director Kate Finegan. The show's 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 people... living the life that God desires.” 

The Magdalene Laundries in Ireland, also called Magdalene asylums, were institutions mainly operated by Roman Catholic orders from the 18th to the late 20th centuries. These establishments purported to provide shelter for "fallen women," with an estimated 30,000 individuals confined in these facilities in Ireland.

‘The Ireland We Dreamed of’ will take place at Smock Alley Theatre Smock Alley Theatre from May 2-4. Tickets are priced at €20. See

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