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Theatre / An Triail

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An Triail is an Irish language play by Máiréad Ní Ghráda.

The play centres around Máire Ní Chathasaigh, a young woman who becomes pregnant outside of wedlock. Given that it's 1960's Ireland, it goes about as well as you'd expect.

The play debuted in Amharclann an Damer in Dublin on 22 September, 1964, with Fionnuala Ní Fhlannagáin as Máire Ní Chathasaigh and Cathal Mac Fhionnlaoich as Pádraig Mac Carthaigh.


An Triail contains examples of:

  • Abusive Parents: Máire's mother tries to force her to terminate the pregnancy, then calls her a whore when she refuses to do so.
  • Age-Gap Romance: There are some clues in the script that suggest Padraig is significantly older than Maire.
  • All Crimes Are Equal: Maire's brothers Liam and Sean are tried too. Their sins? Not keeping an eye on Maire at the dance where she meets Padraig and talking about her pregnancy symptoms not realising their mother is listening.
  • Alliterative Name: Liam's girlfriend Beiti de Burca (translates as Betty Burke).
  • Arc Words: "Don't blame me/It's not my fault/I'm not the one to blame".
  • Audience Participation: The audience are told they are acting as the jury for the trial.
  • Benevolent Boss: Maire's second employer at the factory, who is described as well-meaning. Notably he didn't fire Maire; she just stopped showing up for work. The reason was that her house collapsed.
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  • Blatant Lies: Maire pretends that she's a widow at first to avoid the scandal of being a single mother. A few others suspected she was lying.
  • Break the Cutie: Máire really gets put through the mill during the play.
  • Country Mouse: Maire through and through. She's even mocked for being a "country fool" later in the play.
  • Dark Reprise: Maire meets Padraig at a dance where she sings the song Siúil, a ghrá". A reprise of it plays after Maire is disowned by her mother. Another reprise is played at the end.
  • Deliberate Values Dissonance:
    • Maire is kicked out of her home by her mother when she gets pregnant - as she is unmarried.
    • When she moves to the city, she has to pretend to be a widow to avoid being looked down on for being a single mother.
  • Despair Event Horizon: Maire spends the whole play hoping that one day Padraig will come and claim his child. She later finds out his wife died and he remarried. After he rejects her, she kills the baby and herself.
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  • Disneyfication: As expected from something written in the 60s, the Magdalene laundries are heavily downplayed. Maire is only there while she's pregnant and the abuse that the nuns would undoubtedly inflict on the women is not mentioned. Not as much was known about the laundries except that 'fallen women' were sent there at the time. It's just described as a home, as opposed to the prison it was in reality.
  • Downer Ending: Máire and Pádraigín are dead, and Mailí is the only one who seems to care
  • Driven to Suicide: Máire
  • Female Misogynist:
    • Maire's mother in spades. Her brothers note that the mother is much harder on Maire. She tries to abort her own granddaughter and disowns her daughter when she refuses.
    • Bean ui Chinselligh fires Maire when she discovers she's pregnant; worried about what the neighbors will think.
  • Foregone Conclusion: Máire will kill herself and her daughter before the end of the play.
  • The Ghost: Padraig's wife Nora is entirely an offstage character.
  • Good Adultery, Bad Adultery: Padraig tries to justify cheating on his wife with Maire by telling her that the wife is dying. Maire remains sympathetic because there's a scene where Padraig tells her they're as good as married.
  • Good Girls Avoid Abortion: Maire refuses a drink that will kill her baby.
  • Honor Before Reason: Maire is given opportunities to adopt her baby out in order to make her life easier. She refuses each of them.
  • Hooker with a Heart of Gold: Mailí. She's pretty much the only decent character in the play, who gave Maire a home and is the only one who accepts responsibility.
  • Infant Immortality: Subverted. Maire kills herself and the baby.
  • Jerk Justifications: Maire's mother justifies her behaviour by saying she had to take care of three children after her husband died.
  • Karma Houdini: Pádraig
  • Middle Child Syndrome: Inverted. Maire is the middle child in her family and she is the protagonist. It's even said that their mother pays more attention to her than her brothers.
  • My Beloved Smother: Bean Uí Chathasaigh, full stop. She refuses to let Máire go to dances, only letting her go to one where the priest is attending, and then with Liam as an escort. She's determined that Seán will become a priest, and Máire a nun, and demands to know where her (adult) children are at all times. Not that that stops her kicking Máire out...
  • My Secret Pregnancy: Maire tries to hide her pregnancy at first, but loses a job when it's discovered.
  • Never My Fault: Each character put on trial refuses any blame.
  • Nice, Mean, and In-Between: The three children in Maire's family. Maire herself is the nice one, Liam the aloof older brother is mean, and Sean the oblivious younger brother is in-between.
  • Odd Name Out: When she's in the laundry, Maire has four women she works with. The first three are Maili, Paili, Daili. The fourth is Nabla.
  • Period Piece: Although it was first written in the 60s and set in the present day, it's usually treated as a 60s period piece these days.
  • Pet the Dog: The last part of the play has Padraig at Maire's grave.
  • Plucky Comic Relief: The other women in the laundry - Paili, Daili and Nabla - provide some chatty banter to alleviate the story.
  • Posthumous Character: Maire is dead when the play begins, and her story is told in flashback.
  • Precision F-Strike: When Maili is asked about if her house is suitable for a girl and her child, she tells the attorneys to go to hell.
  • Skewed Priorities: The woman who hired Maire as a cleaning lady justified her low salary by her lack of references, claiming she could have been a criminal. The judge counters that the lady was happy to hire her when she thought she might be a criminal - but not when she found out she was pregnant.
  • Slut-Shaming: Padraig doing this to Maire is what brings about her suicide.
  • Tragic Flaw: Maire's is her naivety about the world she lives in.
  • Your Cheating Heart: Padraig was cheating on his first wife with Maire. It turns out his visit to Maili's brothel is cheating on his second too.


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