Laundry (Site Specific)
October 24, 2013
It’s rare for a show that you want to flee from within the first five minutes to be doing its job right. But if you didn’t want to dart from Anu’s site specific theatre piece cum art installation there would have to be something seriously wrong with you.
Set in the Gloucester Street Magdalene Convent which only shut its doors in 1996 (taking in its last girl in 1995) it is more sensory that oratory and is, above all else, participatory. You share the shame, isolation and discomfort of the girls- and the country that failed them, as you wander, alone, from room to room, stripped of the ability to show human kindness by theatrical conventions in the same way religious dogma stripped our for fathers of their own ability to do the right thing.
The pungent silence, punctuated by slamming doors and crying babies, distresses and debilitates further as the crumpled expressions of the figures that haunt the rooms and hallways, robbed of life and liberty, stare up at you, making you a party to their duress. The moments of tragic heart a hand-held prayer, an almost dance in a confessional give hushed voice to the victims but further impress the imposing presence of the building and its history upon you.
Rushed out onto the street, the final third of the show takes place during a taxi ride around the Foley Street area and in a local launderette and while this is a useful way of highlighting the long-term effect these laundries had on the people and communities associated with them it also let’s the air out of the tires a little. Deflating the horrors just witnessed. It serves a purpose showing us how easy it is to forget or ignore- but it jars when contrasted with the chillingly effective silence that preceded it.
In spite of this Laundry remains vital viewing, where director Louise Lowe takes the darkest corner of our states history and makes us stand in it.