An Triail – powerful play from 1960s that remains relevant


From this week's Galway City Tribune

From this week's Galway City Tribune

An Triail – powerful play from 1960s that remains relevant An Triail – powerful play from 1960s that remains relevant


Local theatre company Fíbín has just finished its Galway run of Máiread Ní Ghráda’s drama, An Triail, and is currently on an eight-week tour, bringing it to Leaving Cert audiences nationwide.

An Triail has been on the Leaving Cert curriculum since 2002 and, in recent years, Fíbín has staged it solely for school audiences.

Having seen it during its run at An Taibhdhearc, An Triail which was first staged in 1964 with Caitlín Maude in the lead role – and launched Fionnuala Flanagan’s acting career – still resonates 59 years later.

Young audiences attending the twice-daily performances countrywide might think its themes of teenage pregnancy and single motherhood belong to a far distant world but not so, because Ireland’s final Magdalen Laundry didn’t close its doors until the mid-1990s.

An Triail was written in Irish and first performed in Irish. For that reason, it possibly escaped the censorship laws which clamped down on book like Edna O’Brien’s The Country Girls, published in 1960. An American university staged an English translation of it in 2019 but most productions of the play are still in Irish.

Fíbín’s version brings Ní Ghráda’s powerful script to life, using puppets, masks and physical performances.

A strong cast of four (using masks) play the various characters to tell the story of Máire, a schoolgirl who becomes pregnant after being seduced by a teacher. Shamed into leaving home to hide her situation from prying neighbours, she ends up in an institution for unmarried mothers where she lives in hope that the child’s father will come for her.

Set in the 1960s when the Catholic Church had clout and single mothers were not tolerated in ‘respectable and especially rural communities’, An Triail explores issues of hypocrisy, and the lack of empathy and basic Christianity at that time.

Máire is not on trial in Ní Ghráda’s play. Rather, those under scrutiny are the people around the schoolgirl – the very people who should and could have protected her; from her strict, devout mother to the school staff.

Evie May O’Brien, a Dubliner educated through Irish with a nice blás on her Gaeilge, plays the innocent Máire brilliantly through body language, eye contact and naivety.

The other cast members are Brían Ó Súilleabháin, Eilís Carey and Bláthnaid Daly, while Cillian Ó Donnachadha directs

This version was condensed to a one-act for its current audience but it’s high time we had a new full-length version for adult audiences, to remind us that we are still living in the shadow of an era in history that wasn’t really that long ago.

Pictured: Brían Ó Súilleabháin, Eilís Carey, Bláthnaid Daly and Evie May O’Brien in An Triail, which Fíbín theatre is staging nationwide for Leaving Cert students. PHOTO: EMILIA JEFREMOVA.


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