Nellie – Viking Theatre – Review


Nellie – Viking Theatre – Review by Frank L.

Nellie (the extraordinary story of a home birth midwife) – Written by Aileen Wymes.

Although the programme notes states that the play is “a work of fiction and does not depict any actual person or event”, it is a polemic for the greater acceptance in Ireland of home births. It is therefore a political piece which is making the case that every woman is entitled to have made available to her all information in relation to a home birth so that she can make an informed choice as to whether that is her preferred option.

Nellie (Brenda McSweeney) tells about her childhood in Ireland, going to London to train as a nurse, training in Yorkshire as a midwife, then working unhappily in New York, happily North of the Arctic circle and then tropical Africa before returning home to Ireland to set up as a self-employed home birth midwife. The central activity in these various locales from Yorkshire onwards is home child birth and the joy and serenity that it brings. McSweeney undoubtedly gets this message across. The text does not shy away from the undeniable truth that home child birth is not suitable in all cases. It makes the case, however, that in Ireland it is peremptorily shunned as a possible option.

This is a topic which is not greatly discussed either in private or in the national press save where there is some altercation between a home-birth midwife and the authorities. Nellie argues that it is a topic worthy of rational and informed debate. If “Nellie” contributes to that debate, it will have provided some service. This is a serious piece of theatre.

Nellie – Viking Theatre – June 22 – July 4

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