Since Maggie Went Away

Amid the discussion over the Irish Adoption (Information and Tracing) Bill this year, Since Maggie Went Away could not come at a more relevant time. Based on true events, one-woman act Jacqueline Nolan narrates the story of abuse in the Catholic Church in Ireland between 1952 and modern day.

Even Nolan was misty-eyed for the final line; she wasn't just performing, she was experiencing with the audience.

Directing the audience through the years, Nolan picks up different characters and transitions between the past and present, confused and factual, seamlessly. Anecdotal and diary-like, the raw emotions are absorbing and the reported history shocking. Nolan uses old radio interview excerpts, images and music to amplify the scenes and characterise each individual's feelings of guilt and disbelief.

The performance is thoroughly researched and clearly on a topic she's passionate about, but Nolan does not exclude those less knowledgeable of the abuse in the Catholic Church. Instead she accommodates all by building up the story, explaining as much as is necessary without detracting from the emotional attachment you feel toward the characters and the people of the past it reflects.

The only crinkle to be ironed out would be the timing of music and lighting, which is pivotal to Nolan's change in character. At certain points, her transformation in posture and gait would be disrupted when she had to change direction suddenly to chase the stage light. It didn't happen often, but enough to be noticed and stymie your feelings at times; ending a beautifully sung folk song with a light flashing in the opposite corner of the stage was a distraction. It was a very minor one, however. Nolan uses the stage space perfectly, gliding and adapting her persona into the full space.

Lilting with Irish humour, the one-hour show ends with a heart-wrenching rendition of Since Maggie Went Away from Nolan as she gazes at the sepia photographs of the children of the past. It's emotional, will give you goose pimples from head to toe and weigh on your soul. Even Nolan was misty-eyed for the final line; she wasn't just performing, she was experiencing with the audience.

Reviews by Lydia Nowak

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The Blurb

1949: Maggie, an Irish country girl, secretly gives birth to a baby boy and is forced to give him away. 2010: Her journalist daughter discovers a global story on abuse in the Catholic Church is also her family's narrative, and sets out to put flesh on the bones of a past hidden by church, state, media – and shame. Philomena endured a lifetime of separation, Maggie can't face the truth of reunion. A true story of atonement for the sins of others, softened by Irish humour.