Going To Space: Since Maggie Went Away

Broadway Baby learns more about Since Maggie Went Away.

The topical peg and my family's story have been working hand in hand, by coincidence, my personal narrative against a bigger backdrop.

Tell us about your show

1949: Maggie, an Irish country girl, secretly gives birth to a baby boy. 2010: Her journalist daughter discovers a story on abuse in the Catholic Church is also the story of her family. A fictionalised, autobiographical family drama. Philomena endured a lifetime of separation, Maggie can't bear the truth of reunion.

Why did you decide to take your show to Space UK this year?

theSpace had that personal touch, assuaged any fears, and offered an upfront deal. The location is great, too.

This is a true, yet really topical story. My mother had a baby in the late 1940s as an unmarried mother. I discovered this when he finally tracked her down in 2010. At the time, while the Dutch world service radio where I was worked was investigating abuse in the Catholic Church, I learned about my brother's fate at the hands of the Christian Brothers in a Dublin home for boys. Later, when I travelled to the home in the Irish midlands where my mother had given birth, I was attracted to the cemetery in the grounds. There, on the neatly trimmed lawn – struck by the absence of gravestones – I felt I was standing on a bigger story. Then the story about the mass graves in these mother-and-baby homes broke a couple of weeks before I performed a monologue on the subject. The topical peg and my family's story have been working hand in hand, by coincidence, my personal narrative against a bigger backdrop.

What has been the biggest challenge in getting your show ready for Edinburgh?

The biggest challenge is to take distance from my own personal story – to make sure that I am the master of my emotion on stage, in the scenes on sexual abuse, for example – and to give the characters I'm playing their own identity. I also want to infuse the piece with humour, in spite of its dark subject matter – humour is part of a self-protection mechanism in any case.
And I still have to get more funding...

How did you create your show?

It started as a narrative journalism piece I wrote about discovering my family's secret and meeting my brother, and his family, for the first time. The article was published in national newspapers in the Netherlands and Ireland; I got considerable response from readers following publication in The Irish Times. The Dutch editor had asked me questions about my mother that I was unable to answer; so I travelled to the mother-and-baby home where my mother had spent almost three years of her life, doing forced labour to 'pay back her keep' (this was also a confrontational revelation).

In June 2014, I was invited by Orange Tea Theatre to perform as part of an evening of monologues. I wrote my own material about standing in the cemetery of the home, and wondering where the gravestones were. The voice of my mother, the country woman, came flowing through me. And now it's a full show.

If your show does well in Edinburgh, what do you want to do with it next?

I'd like to take it on a circuit, certainly to New York where many similar stories end; and I'd like to use it to prompt change – so many adopted children from these homes are still refused access to their birth files under Irish legislation. The framework for an enquiry into these mother-and-baby homes was announced earlier this year. Time for change. 

Production Company : Ballydam Theatre - Orange Tea Theatre

Venue : theSpace on the Mile, Theatre 3 (V39)

Dates: 11-15 August 2015

Times: 11 August: 12:20 / 12-15 August: 12:15