In November, in collaboration with Phil Kingston of the Abbey Community and Education Department, I am directing a piece called Taking Back Our Voices. The piece is important to me as I have been researching prostitution in Ireland for some time with the intention of making work about it. The legislation around the sex industry is highly contested at the moment, and campaigns such as Turn Off The Red Light is making massive impact in increasing awareness; s0 right now feels like the time to be using theatre as a means for furthering the conversation around it. (For more on the Irish Government’s Consultation Process on prostitution legislation see Ruhama’s archive on it.)
The showing on Nov 16th and 17th will be a work-in-development, a staging of what we discover in our workshop. The process itself is preceded by seven months of one-on-one meetings between six theatre artists (Caitríona Ní Mhurchú, Kathy Rose O’Brien, Aoibhinn McGinnity, Sorcha Kenny, Niamh Shaw and Úna Kavanagh) and women who have been involved in prostitution. They had no agenda other than to form relationships, be scrupulously honest and see if any material emerged from which to make work. Many stories have been shared, assumptions exposed and emotions stirred, on both sides.
Taking Back Our Voices will be also be about how actors research ‘real life’ as much as the subject of such research. To refer back to that scrupulous honesty – we found that a world riddled with distrust, betrayal and exploitation could only be countered by commitment, candour and open-hearted generosity. We found these qualities in everyone involved in the project. This is a work about relationships, from a place where relationships are barely possible.
Taking Back Our Voices is a free event and will be ticketed through the Abbey Theatre’s box office.