Seeping with Ghosts

It bucketed rain in Dublin’s Sean MacDermott street on Saturday as we waited to be let in. Then we noticed a pair of eyes staring out at us through the grid as the door was unbolted. There was no time to shake the rain from the umbrella before being handed what smelled like a bucket of Jeyes Fluid by a chapped, ugly red hand. The overpowering odour of disinfectant pervaded the place for the site-specific performance of Laundry by Anu Productions at  Dublin Theatre Festival 2011.

We progress, one at a time, through the tiled spaces lit by the watery sun through stained glass windows, to background sounds of a church organ, a baby’s cries, a ticking clock ,on a journey into the past. But it is a journey shot through with the present as a young man screams at the entrance for news of his sister and a taxi-driver, afterwards, tells the story of a woman who disappears a week after leaving the Magdalene Laundry to marry. True stories of how the experience of what happened in the place continues to resonate through the area.

Each scene carries us deeper into the building’s history: we are invited to look through a filing cabinet that holds snips of hair clippings and lumps of carbolic soap as the names of inmates are recited; a stripped woman takes a bath as a supervisor crunches an apple and looks on; a woman in the church holds your hand tight and whispers her story.

The stories told in the recesses of the Sean MacDermott Street building are powerful in their impact. An experience not to be missed.