We Don’t Know What’s Buried Here – Civic Theatre – Review
Photos by Dorje de Burgh
Two women stand on top of a small hill. They both have spades in their hands and they are digging a small patch of ground. They are not sure what they are looking for but they continue their work. One talks of finding her lost baby, the other only wants the truth. They are Tina and Bernadette, two former inhabitants of the Magdalene laundries and the site is at the back of the former ‘Mother and Baby home’ on Sean McDermott Street. They now have a time constraint on their work. The site has been sold to a Japanese budget hotel chain and soon they won’t be able to dig any more. They tell stories of their lives and also of what they have found in the earth.
This production is a new work by THEATREclub and was written by Grace Dyas. THEATREclub is a Dublin based company that explores many social issues such as prostitution (The Game – 2015) and abortion (Not a Home – 2017). This work continues in a similar vein to those other productions and investigates a wide spectrum of social issues. While the Magdalene laundries are the main focus, we hear of a variety of contemporary issues such as the Tuam babies, poverty, drug abuse and the Jobstown trial. There is even a mention of Michael Colgan, as Dyas was the first to discuss his work place bullying on her blog. The net is cast far and wide for ideas and influences. There is talk of the commissions and reports that were set up to investigate these issues and how their findings are continually ignored.
The set is a sloped patch of grass with the grave they are digging at its centre. There is a fence and a simple backdrop behind them. The story is told in a dream-like world where days pass in minutes with the changing of the light being the only obvious indicator of the passage of time. There is an obvious debt to Beckett, with a touch of ‘Waiting for Godot’ in the location and setting. There is also the use of repeated phrases as the two women keep going over the same topics and ideas, never truly finding what they seek.
The play has a specific political viewpoint. As many of the audience shared this view on opening night, in a sense it was preaching to the converted. Whether there is enough new information in this production to change the opinions of others, it is unlikely, but it will obviously help start a dialogue which is catered for by the post show discussions.
The work itself is not easy theatre, nor is it meant to be. It holds a mirror up to contemporary Ireland, making us take a long look at ourselves and what we find there is less than pretty. The play covers a huge amount of ground and possibly would be better served by concentrating on a smaller number of issues. Much of what is said you will already be aware of, but to have it presented in this format does focus the mind. THEATREclub continue to provoke and incite, refusing to allow us to gloss over our troubled past.
Each performance is followed by a post show discussion where you can hear from a variety of people involved in politics and activism. The line about the Sean McDermott street site being sold to a Japanese Hotel chain is unfortunately true. In the discussion, it became clear that the survivors of these institutions see this as the final attempt to cover up the facts. It will no longer be possible to do proper excavation work on the site once the diggers and dumpers arrive to turn the soil for a final time. In a sense, this is their final battleground and this play, a rallying cry!
Presented by THEATREclub in association with the Civic Theatre
Cast – Grace Dyas and Doireann Coady
Written by Grace Dyas
Director, Composer: Barry John O’Connor
Designed by Barry John O’Connor and Eoin Winning
Starring: Grace Dyas and Doireann Coady
Photo By Dorje de Burgh