The Space

Reviewed – 30th August 2017





“Roisin Brehony as starry-eyed Mandy was a true comedienne, stealing the show with her fantasy wedding ceremony to Elvis”


Patricia Burke Brogan’s insightful debut play Eclipsed from 1992 exposes the Magdalene convent laundries of Ireland. These penitentiary workhouses were where many unmarried mothers were forced into confinement either by the church or by their very own families, punished for having had a child out of wedlock – a child that many of the women never saw again.

Now, 25 years on since the original production, up and coming theatre company, FilthyCOW, have brought Brogan’s play, which was based on her own experiences as a young nun, back to the London stage, performing appropriately at The Space – a converted church. Filled with heartbreak and desperation, FilthyCOW enthusiastically portray the lengths in which these women would go to keep their sanity, whilst society gradually forgot about them. Dreaming of escape and being reunited with their children.

Transported back to 1963, we meet Brigit (Danielle Brook Weir), and the rest of the young women that are trapped under the strict regiment of the Mother Superior Victoria (Maryrose Swarbrick).


Brigit is the fiery ringleader, fuelled with anger and determination to see her child. Sickly Cathy (Francesca Swarbrick) similarly lives to see her children again, attempting valiantly to escape numerous times. Mandy (Roisin Brehony) dreams of the day she can marry her one true love, Elvis Presley, whilst Nellie-Nora (Clementine Webb) seemingly accepts her fate, more focused on rummaging through the pockets of laundered clothes for cigarette butts to smoke. It is young Juliet (Ellamae Cieslik), fresh from the orphanage and fearful of the outside world, who completes the motley crew of unwanted women.

Sister Virginia (Rosie Orchison) oversees the work within the laundry, but perpetually fights her inner turmoil between abiding the decree of the church and feeling remorseful towards the way the female inmates are treated.

Danielle Brook Weir stood out as the brassy, mischievous Bridget, subtly balancing her joker of the pack foolery, with her raw, maternal suffering. Meanwhile, Roisin Brehony as starry-eyed Mandy was a true comedienne, stealing the show with her fantasy wedding ceremony to Elvis, in polystyrene mannequin form.

Maryrose Swarbrick somewhat lacked the sinister nature that Mother Victoria needed for her to be feared by the likes of Sister Virginia, which added to the overall sense that the whole production was missing the grittiness to portray the severe abuse that these women would have undoubtedly received at the Magdalene Laundries. However, I have a feeling that this was more a downfall of the play itself rather than the actor’s performances.

Director Claire Sharpe used her musical talents to help uplift Eclipsed with melodic interludes of acapella singing. With a mixture of pious hymns and foot stomping jukebox hits, Sharpe utilised the strong singing ability of her actors to accentuate the conflicting nature of the oppressive old world being defied by the uprising of 1960’s popular culture.

It is understandable why FilthyCOW wanted to revitalise this play, as it historically draws upon the lack of control women have had over their bodies, a problem that is still an issue to this day, in certain demographics of the world. However, Patricia Burke Brogan’s play sadly lacked the full depth in tackling this issue in the way the company were hoping to, no matter how much élan the cast’s performance exuded.


Reviewed by Phoebe Cole


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is at The Space until 2nd September



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