A Full Length Play
Copyright 2013 by Alan Cliff.
Publication partially aided by Waterford City Arts Council and the Publishing Purchase Scheme:
SALVATION: The Play
When Stagemad's James Power approached me in June 2012 to write a play about Kilmacthomas Workhouse I was overjoyed for two reasons. The first being that Stagemad is renowned for nurturing new writers and taking audiences on dramatic journeys. Secondly, the chance to explore the lives of the workhouse residents was a challenging and exciting opportunity which I was eager to research. What was created was Sanctuary a site-specific one-act play, a historical fantasy/horror with a twist. The performance took place during Halloween inside the former infirmary of Kilmacthomas Workhouse. The piece went on to win Best New Play and Best One Act Play from The Munster Express and The Waterford News And Star respectively.
Irish workhouses are an important part of history and a dramatisation of such opens a wide range of creative possibilities. Consequently, during the run of the one-act play the first blueprints of the full length piece were being formed.
I wanted to establish a realistic representation of the Irish workhouse world but I didn’t wish to weigh it down with too many facts and statistics. I believe drama, in its rawest form should deal with the situations, challenges and experiences of dramatic characters and follow their emotions, decisions and impulses under these circumstances. With SALVATION I have tried to steer the piece away from being purely documentary in its intent. Therefore, I have created fictitious characters and events within an historically accurate setting. The agendas and motives portrayed by these characters are, in the main, aggrandised and embellished for the sake of drama. My aim is to take you on a journey, to engage your imaginations, to take you into a different world. AC.
SALVATION: The Book
I enjoy reading plays more than any other literary medium. I would even go as far to say that, occasionally, I enjoy reading plays more than I enjoy watching them. I allow my imagination to fly when uncovering the realistic, surrealistic and down right obscure worlds that playwrights create.
At home, a pokey flat above Johnnie Walkers Chip Shop on Mayor’s Walk in Waterford, I have a bookcase that contains nothing but plays. Most of these are in volumes of five or six; I haven’t actually counted them all but my best estimate would be approximately three hundred. Three hundred different worlds.
I find most of the material in charity shops and take great joy in seeing original price stickers on back covers as I purchase them for, sometimes, two hundred percent less than the book shop price. I believe first-hand play manuscripts, for whatever reason, are very expensive. Have I read all of these second-hand scripts? No. But I will. Have I seen all of them? No. And I probably won’t. There are some plays on that bookcase by writers I no longer hear about regarding new work or having their work produced. Makes me think of fireworks: their plays lit the sky for a couple of nights and then burnt out. Saying this, their work is always there, right in front of me. I can insert myself into their dramatic worlds any time I please.
With the aid of Waterford City Arts Council’s Publishing Purchase Scheme I have been able to publish SALVATION in paperback form. The play will also be available as an E-Book in the summer of 2013. In accordance with my ethos that play scripts are too expensive in book shops, the play will be available at the price of €5 and the E-Book will be 49c.
As SALVATION stands on the third shelf between my Methuen and Penguin collections I wonder, in the future, will it be picked up in the local Oxfam and inspire someone to recreate what Stagemad created at the premiere of the show in Garter Lane Theatre? Or will it, ultimately, like a firework, blast off and burn never to catch light again? I hope the copies published will travel far and wide through the charity shops of the world. Read by the new owner, so they can experience my representation of a dramatic world, and then given away again. I will hope for more displays, of course, but even if it is just being read I truly believe my dramatic world remains alive. AC.
SALVATION is free for performance but Stagemad Theatre Company https://www.stagemad.ie must be notified before any production begins.
I would like to take this opportunity to mention a number of important people who have had a major influence on my writing. Liam Murphy in particular, whose time and patience I took advantage of, for teaching me how to edit more tightly and be bolder, braver and stronger in the face of competition. I thank Jim Nolan who took the time to read my work, chew the bulging fat of it and make me consider how my characters are engaged when not on stage. Finally, and most importantly, to my partner Clare, whose unyielding spirit and passion for the Arts is a blessing to me and my scripts. I thank you for your knowledge, your understanding and your love. AC.
Mary Morrissey, a workhouse inmate.
Paddy O'Doherty, a workhouse inmate.
Aidan Kirwan, a workhouse inmate.
Deirdre Jacob, a workhouse nurse.
The action takes place in an Irish workhouse during the nineteenth century.
SALVATION was first performed at Garter Lane Arts Centre, Waterford on May 21st 2013 with the following cast:
Margaret Curran as MARY. MORRISEY
Kevin O'Flynn as PADDY. O'DOHERTY
James Whelan as AIDAN. KIRWAN
Emer O'Carroll as DEIRDRE. JACOB
Directed by James Power
Stage Manager Liam Fitzpatrick
Stagemad Manager Mary Power
Lighting Design by Andrew Dunphy
Set Design by James Whelan / Paddy Dwan
A Stagemad Theatre Company Production:
A large crucifix above the stage.
The set is divided in two. On one half there is the workhouse mortuary containing slabs (including an infant sized slab to emphasise the sadness of this place), a cupboard and a bucket of water with washcloth.
The other half is the workhouse chapel where an altar stands alone.
At rise, DEIRDRE., a nurse, lying on a mortuary slab, covered by a sheet.
MARY., PADDY. and AIDAN., all workhouse inmates, enter from different sides of the stage. During this opening they act as a chorus, reciting biblical passages and making their way slowly to Deirdre’s slab.
The inmates are wearing appropriate workhouse uniforms. However, Aidan is bare-footed, Paddy is wearing a long coat and Mary is wearing an apron.
MARY. The Lord is my strength and my song; He has become my salvation. Exodus chapter fifteen, verse two.
PADDY. For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men. Titus chapter two, verse eleven.
AIDAN. For God did not appoint us to suffer wrath but to receive salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ. One Thessalonians chapter five, verse nine.
They are now surrounding the slab. Mary is at the head.
MARY. It is good to wait quietly for the salvation of the Lord. Lamentations chapter three, verse twenty six.
PADDY. For my eyes have seen Your salvation. Luke chapter two, verse thirty.
AIDAN. I heard what sounded like the roar of a great multitude in heaven shouting; “Hallelujah!” salvation and glory and power belong to our God. Revelation chapter nineteen, verse one.
MARY. The Lord give life and He taketh it away. Nurse Jacob has ascended to heaven to sit right with God and be blessed for all eternity.
Pause. Mary looks at Aidan, who is close to tears.
Pause. Mary looks at Aidan.
MARY. We believe in one God, the Father and Almighty, Maker of the heaven and the earth. It is He whom we shall love with our lives and believe His actions are for the benefit of all His people. We are here by the grace of Thee Lord and we have faith that what You bring is just and right.
Aidan shoots a look at Mary.
MARY. (To Paddy) Leave us.
PADDY. I am to be taking her soon.
MARY. Leave us. We won’t be long.
AIDAN. (Coughing, spitting) How can you allow God to get away with this?
MARY. You think I can control God?
AIDAN. You can control me.
MARY. The idiot room is where you belong. Allow me to impress it upon Guardian Power.
AIDAN. Power can rot.
MARY. Our leader and protector does not deserve such disrespect.
AIDAN. Disrespect!? I… (Sighs)
MARY. Rest is what you need, child.
AIDAN. (He kneels to the slab, to Mary) Mother, what happened here? What happened?
Snap to black.
The workhouse mortuary, approximately a week earlier.
All slabs are vacant.
Aidan is cleaning the floor, on his knees, whistling. He is now wearing shoes.
Deirdre, a nurse, enters, watches Aidan for several moments, enjoying his tune. She has a flower in her hair.
Deirdre has an English accent.
DEIRDRE. Somebody's in high spirits.
Aidan stops and looks at her.
AIDAN. Sorry, nurse.
DEIRDRE. A little