The premise of Grace Dyas’ new play We Don’t Know What’s Buried Here is simple. Two Magalene ghosts hear about Tuam on the radio and literally go about unearthing the dark secrets of Irish society. If you missed its original run, you’re in luck as a few more dates have been announced. Patrick McCusker finds out more.
The last time you spoke to rabble was in 2016. A lot of the issues you talked about in that interview – particularly with regards to housing and so on, have become even more acute since then. What do you think the most interesting developments in the two years since you last spoke to rabble have been?
I think just how acute and inhumane the housing crisis has become. I think at that time there was a sense that “something’s gotta give, something’s gotta break” . That kinda didn’t happen, especially in that Rebuilding Ireland farce when we were told all the families would be out of hotels by July. It’s just our complete inertia to actually follow through on promises.
Our new project that we’re working on now is called We Don’t Know What’s Buried Here, and one of the central seeds of the plot is that it’s about the Magdalene Laundry on Sean McDermott Street. That space was promised to the survivors as a memorial. They felt they were going to be memorialized, but Dublin City Council then tried to sell it to a Japanese hotel group without consulting anyone.
It’s kind of absurd how these kind of things happen. We continuously say that we’re going to do X, Y and Z and we never do. With our new piece, it’s kind of gone into an absurdist realm where we’ve dealt with the reality of it for almost ten years, and the only solution is to reflect how absurd the situation is.
That’s definitely true. Your new play looks great. Would you mind telling us about it?
Yeah so it’s set in Liberty Park in Dublin 1, which is besides the former Sean McDermott Street site of the Magdalene Laundry. I play Tina, and Doireann Coady plays Bernadatte, who’re two women digging a hole looking for a baby’s body because they’ve heard a report about Tuam on the radio and want to make sure our babies aren’t buried in a septic tank like in Tuam. So we go back and start to dig a hole. As we dig , we uncover everything that’s been buried in Ireland.
At the time of writing the Dublin City Council are looking to sell off the site of the Sean McDermott Street Magdalene Laundry to a hotel chain. Some people have argued it should be made a museum. What would you like to see from it?
I think I’d love to follow the wishes of the survivors of that laundry and for there to be a site of remembrance there. A lot of the survivors have talked about being reunited with their children and wanting to bring their children to show them that “ I didn’t abandon you, this is what I had to do. I was trapped here.”
It was a prison, it was a labour camp, and it’s important to actually show that to people.
Catch the play at the Axis Theatre in Ballymun on the 20th and the Mermaid Arts Centre in Bray on the 22nd. There’s an extra date in the O’Reilly Theatre on Belvedere Street on the 24th of February too.