Belfast Girls/Irish Rep

“Ireland is no longer a country for young women,” declares one of the five passengers crowded into a small cabin on the Inchinnan, a steamer about to disembark on a three-month voyage from Belfast to Sydney. It’s 1850, and these desperate travellers are part of the Earl Grey orphan scheme, designed both to relieve Ireland’s overcrowded workhouses and to provide wives and laborers to England’s colony of Australia. Jaki McCarrick’s play, directed by Nicola Murphy, unfolds at the height of the Great Hunger, and death and devastation are rampant. These women are pawns of a cruel, paternalistic system, but they are also scrappy, independent agents of their own liberation. In a series of skillfully structured scenes, relationships are formed—through jokes, songs, intimidation, compassion, even love and violence. One by one, the women reveal the circumstances that brought them to this point, each story more harrowing than the last. Five wonderful actors—Caroline Strange, Sarah Street, Labhaoise Magee, Mary Mallen, and Aida Leventaki—create moving depths of characterization and communication.— Ken Marks


Francis J. Greenburger Mainstage at the Irish Rep
Now through June 26, 2022

1850, onboard a ship bound from Belfast to Sydney. Five young women seek to become “mistresses of their own destiny.” But some find they cannot escape the nightmare of the lives they are leaving behind. As they draw nearer to the promised land, their connection to the past grows ever more powerful, eliciting rage, love, despair, and above all, hope.