How far would you go to instil good religious values into your child? Would you send them to work against their will? Cleansed looks at one young girl’s journey at a Magdalene laundry and the fallout of what she experiences.
Magdalene laundries were Irish institutions that operated between 18th and early 20th century for ‘fallen women’, a term used for sexual promiscuity. The original intent was to rehabilitate those women who had strayed from the righteous path. However, by the turn of the 20th century they had become places for ritual abuse.
Cleansed tells the girl’s story by moving between the 60’s when she was first incarcerated, the 80’s, when her own daughter was her age at the time of her incarceration, and present day. At first the story can be a little difficult to follow as there are only three actors playing all the parts. However, by the time the story’s real meat surfaces the time switches have become normal and distinct enough to follow with ease.
The acting is, for the most part, accomplished with some excellent touches, particularly from Mother Bridget who plays the nun with aplomb. However, her portrayal of the younger mother Bridget is less convincing. This may be as much to do with the script during these sections; it feels less holy and a little too action based - it is difficult to find a scene where a nun holding scissors to a girl’s neck convincing. There are also a couple of moments in the play that seem a little too convenient to truly be realistic, which ruins the aesthetic.
Cleansed is a play that gets stronger as it goes and has an ending that is both dramatic and chilling. Whilst it has it’s flaws, these are far outweighed by its story and skillful acting, and it definitely worth your time.