The Magdalen Whitewash by Valerie Goodwin
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Kent Drama Festival
(Youth Drama Challenge Trophy) 2009 - Gravesend Youth Theatre

"... poignant ... well-written; raises plenty of issues and
there are heart-warming characters to explore."

Jo Morrell, Teaching Drama (Spring Term 2, 2006/7)

The Magdalen Laundries were set up in collaboration between the Church and the State in Ireland and were still going until the late 1990's. They were attached to convents and girls were signed in by their families. Once in there, they could not leave until their families came to get them out- which in some cases meant a lifetime of washing and virtual imprisonment.

What was their crime? Pregnancy, in most cases; but some girls were transferred there from orphanages, some were deemed to be a threat, or at risk of falling prey to lust.

The play focuses on eight of these 'Maggies', their stories, and their attempts to leave the laundry. In their dealings with the few men they encounter within the steamy walls- priests and delivery men, and in their contact with their relatives, we see them through the eyes of the 'free'.

Robbed of their lives because of events beyond their control, they were branded as 'sinners' and locked away to 'wash away the stain'. How do they cope with the gruelling toil, and the stigma , the abandonment by their families and the sense of the passing years with no hope of reprieve? And how did they cope with the agony of losing their babies?

This play which is ideal for youth theatre, is fictional only in the sense that the girls depicted are not based on actual women known to the author. However, any similarity to real persons, living or dead, is regrettable, but all too likely.

Girl/Nancy - 16 years old. Self-assured. American.
Mary (old) - 28 years old. Institutionalised and resigned to her fate.
Mary (young) - Nearly 13, a bit of an 'eejit'. lived alone with her father.
Sister Ignatia - About 40 years old. fairly kind natured.
Bernadette - A resident at the laundry for about 10 yrs. A natural poet. The identity of her child's father has been kept a secret.
Martha - Made pregnant by a married man. Resident for about 2 years.
Assumpta - Bitter. About 20 years old. Has only just had her baby. The father refused to marry her, and went off to England.
Angela - Had her baby a month ago. Is still hopeful about leaving. Her cousin got her pregnant.
Marie - Aged 64. Resident for about 50 yrs.
Pauline - The joker. 15 years old and nearly due. The boy has now married a rich widow.
Father Doyle - Early 30's, Very 'Stephen Tompkinson'. Believes in the sins and the penance. Tries to help the girls. Sincere.
Sister Margaret - A bit dithery. New to the Magdalen.
Father O'Connell - Mid-50's. A nasty, perverted type.
Jim - A delivery man.
Donal - Another delivery man.
Sister Gabriel - About 30 years old. Very cold and strict.
Mother Superior - Aged 60 plus. Distant and unyielding.
Mrs Doolan - Pauline's Mother.
Patricia - A 10 yr old orphan
Notes :
1) Some of the roles can be doubled
2) If a larger cast is available they could be cast as singers, other girls, café customers etc


Duration : 90 mins
Acts : 2
Principals : 4m, 16f
Sets : 6
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The Revolutionaries
One Act Drama ...
Lucy In The Sky
Once An Actress
Something Beginning With C
Remembrance Day
The Brown Felt Hat
The Cafe Sirocco

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