Modern Ireland can sometimes seem not so modern, and there have been moments when it’s had to be dragged kicking and screaming into the twenty-first century. ‘Twas ever thus: it also reluctantly shuffled into the twentieth century, and for each progressive landmark in the young nation’s history, there is a shameful reminder of its conservative, dogmatic past. In 2017 Ireland’s National Theatre, the Abbey will stage The Train, a musical based on a real-life watershed moment in Irish history. In 1971 a small group of women traveled to Belfast to buy condoms and birth control pills, which were banned in the Republic of Ireland. The so-called Contraceptive Train “marked the beginning of the split between Church and State, a schism which is ongoing,” says director Lynne Parker. Contraception was legalized in Ireland in 1980.
Rough Magic‘s production of The Train has been mounted before, but there is special significance in bringing the musical to the Abbey. In 2015 the National Theatre found itself the uncomfortable center of attention when activists criticized it for its lack of plays by women. Waking the Feminists hit a nerve: Meryl Streep and other celebrities voiced their support for equality in Irish theatre. The production comes at a crucial time: Ireland is currently in the grips of a public debate on abortion. The Train runs from April 6 to 15, 2017.