The Irish Repertory Theatre presents Belfast Girls by Jari McCarrick at the Francis J. Greenburger Mainstage
May 11, 2022 – June 26, 2022
By Jaki McCarrick
Directed by Nicola Murphy
With Aida Leventaki, Labhaoise Magee, Mary Mallen, Caroline Strange, and Sarah Street
“Who knows what dreams were born on the Inchinnan, huh? If it’s not us who will have those freedoms you talked of…then maybe our daughters will. That’s the important thing.”
1850, on board 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.
In the late 1840s, men largely outnumbered women in Australia, and there were not enough people entering the labor force. At the same time, the Great Famine in Ireland had left many young women destitute, with thousands in workhouses. Amid these social crises, Earl Grey, the British Secretary of State for the Colonies, arranged to kill two birds with one stone by sending “morally pure” girls aged 14-18 to Australia through the Female Orphan Emigration Scheme. All told, between 1848 and 1850, 4,114 girls voluntarily boarded 20 ships to make the four-month journey and start new lives in Sydney, Adelaide, and Melbourne.
Jaki McCarrick won the 2010 Papatango Prize for New Writing for her play Leopoldville. Belfast Girls was developed at the National Theatre Studio in London in 2012 and was shortlisted for the 2012 Susan Smith Blackburn Prize and the 2014 BBC Tony Doyle Award. Productions have been mounted in Chicago, Portland, and Pittsburgh.