Unhappy Histories

One woman’s Lockout tale of ritual and loss

The Churching of Happy Cullen

Project Arts Cube


Commemorations marking the 1913 Lockout have largely focused on the public and the communal. Louise Lewis and Simon Manahan's angle is to explore the interior life of one woman living through it. Tenement-dweller Happy Cullen has lost a child, and while struggling to manage her grief - as Caruso sings and her family chastise - she has to endure "churching" (an archaic religious "cleansing" custom for post-childbirth mothers).


Lewis is an excellent, kinetic performer, moving with ease through multiple roles and employing frantic choreography as she struggles with bodily autonomy and bereavement. Alma Kelliher’s sound design – opera, mournful babies – enhances both the atmosphere and sparse set. Lewis is the mesmerising centrepiece, but the story she tells doesn’t measure up to the strength of her performance and feels like a gifted actor in a half-formed work.

Ends Sept 21

Sinéad Gleeson

Sinéad Gleeson

Sinéad Gleeson is a writer, editor and Irish Times contributor specialising in the arts