St Albans theatre group prepares to be Eclipsed


Eclipsed - Credit: Archant

A dramatic start to 2016 is promised by the Company of Ten which is putting on Eclipsed by Patricia Burke Brogan from next Friday, January 22.

Set in 1963, Eclipsed tells the story of four women, forced inmates of a Magdalene laundry in a fictional place called Killmacha.

The truth about the Magdalene laundries has been much publicised in recent years, most famously in two films, The Magdalene sisters, and Philomena, the latter starring Judi Dench.

Thousands of women passed through the laundries, mainly in Ireland, between 1922 and 1966. Their only “crime” was to conceive out of wedlock. For this they were not only permanently separated from their children but condemned to a life of hard labour, unimaginable cruelty and near starvation.

Despite the dark and serious themes of the play, the humanity of the “penitents” and their compassion for each other shines through - and even includes interludes of song and dance.

Director Nick Strudwick said, “It has given me tremendous pleasure to see the development of the relationship between the four main characters, who have had to endure the hardship and indignity of life in the laundry, under the strict unfeeling control of the Mother Superior, played by Lesley Gordon.”

“The set, however, has brought its challenges. It is quite amazing how many brushes, washboards, buckets, to say nothing of sheets and dirty shirts, are needed to equip a working laundry.”

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New member, Beth Wilson, is the youngest in the cast, which she feels really helped her to portray Cathy McNamara. “Although Cathy is already a mother, she has not had the chance to grow up properly in the outside world. She is really childlike in her excitement when there is an opportunity to enjoy herself.”

Jenny Kilcast, who plays Brigit, a very complex personality, said: “She is bristling with anger and resentment over the injustice of her position. However, many of the lighter moments of escapist fantasy in the play are initiated by Brigit, as a way of keeping their spirits up.”

“Brigit never gives up trying to escape and find her daughter, despite being nearly overwhelmed by despair.”

Diana Clutterbuck, in the role of Rosa, describes her character as “book ends” to the story. She looks at the plight of the Magdalene “penitents” from a more modern perspective. Diana explained:. “For the most part, women today have the freedom to choose how to live their lives. These women had no choice whatsoever. Nor did their children, deprived of a relationship with their birth mothers.”

Performances take place in the Abbey Theatre Studio at 8pm next Friday and Saturday, January 22 and 23, and from Tuesday, January 26, until Saturday, January 30. There is also a 2.30pm matinee on Sunday, January 24.

To book tickets click here or call the box office on 01727 857861.