An Triail

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An Triail
An Triail (fibin 2016).jpg
Poster for 2016 Fibín production
Written byMáiréad Ní Ghráda
CharactersMáire Ní Chathasaigh
Bean Uí Chathasaigh
Pádraig Mac Carthaigh
Áine ní Bhreasail
Seáinín an Mhótair
Liam Ó Cathasaigh
Seán Ó Cathasaigh
Colm Ó Sé
Bean Uí Chinsealigh
Factory manager
2 Attorneys
Date premieredSeptember 22, 1964 (1964-09-22)
Place premieredThe Damer Theatre, Dublin
Original languageIrish
SubjectProstitution, hypocrisy, Single motherhood, Magdalene asylums
GenreExpressionism, social realism, melodrama
SettingRural Ireland and Dublin, 1960s

An Triail ([ən̪ˠ ˈtʲɾʲiəlʲ], "The Trial") is a play written by the Irish playwright Máiréad Ní Ghráda which starred well-known poet and Sean-nós singer Caitlín Maude in its first performance in 1964.[1][2] The play was first broadcast on RTÉ radio in 1965.[3]

The play is written entirely in the Irish language and has been on the curriculum for the Leaving Certificate examinations since 2006.[not verified in body]

Plot summary[edit]

The play is set in Ireland during the 1960s and deals with the pregnancy, and subsequent single motherhood, of a young woman, Máire Ní Chathasaigh. She is shunned by her family after becoming impregnated by Pádraig, a married man and a teacher in the local school, and must leave her parish and move to Dublin to find work to support herself and her child. Here she is once again marginalised, first for being a single pregnant woman and then for being single mother. After her accommodation collapses around her child, she moves into a brothel with a prostitute named Mailí who took pity on her. An encounter with the child's father, where he further rejects her and his child, only serves to make matters worse and the girl takes her own life in a similar way to poet Sylvia Plath, as well as that of her child, by natural gas inhalation from her oven.

It often goes back and forth between "flashbacks" (memories of Máire, the protagonist) and the trial. At the beginning, Máire's mother is introduced, and proceeds to state she is a god-fearing woman who has done nothing wrong. Throughout the play, this is typical of most characters.

Main characters[edit]

Máire She is the protagonist of the play. Her key flaw is her loyalty. She is very sheltered and naive due to her upbringing. As a young woman she falls in love with Pádraig, a school teacher, at a dance. Máire was raised with no knowledge of men and the like, as her mother raised her to be only a nun. She was only allowed to enter dances due to the priest being there. During the play, Máire's love for Pádraig never falters. Proof of this is seen how, even after his betrayal throughout the flashbacks, she never breaks her promises to "Never to mention [his] name", "Never to write to" him and to "Never tell anyone about" their relationship. When she becomes pregnant, she is thrown out by her mother, and goes to Dublin, where she meets Mailí, a prostitute, who shows her kindness by telling her of the Social Worker's plans to give her baby up for adoption. Máire rejects this plan, and after an accident that caused her house to collapse around her baby while she was at work, Mailí takes her in before she meets with Pádraig. She kills herself and her baby after this meeting, because Pádraig rejects her and anything to do with the child. Throughout the flashbacks in which she and Pádraig meet, she is constantly told that he loves her, and would marry her, were he not married. Hence, when she finds out from a friend, a year later, that his wife died a month after she was thrown out, Máire has an emotional breakdown, and in finding out that he has remarried since, commits the fatal act in the penultimate scene.

Pádraig The school teacher responsible for Máire's pregnancy. During their meetings and even when they met at the dance, he is constantly teasing and testing her, manipulating her, making her feel pity for him while enticing her all the more. He convinces her that he has married her "With this ring, I marry you", although stating beforehand he could not marry her because his own wife, Nóra, is ill but alive. This pretend marriage, which he knows is fake but she does not, is a ploy to try to get Máire to sleep with him. He is unfaithful to his wife as she is dying, and is also unfaithful to his new wife as he goes to the house of ill repute to get the services of a prostitute such as Mailí.

Bean Uí Cathasaigh The mother of Máire, Liam and Seán, an ambitious widow who has made many sacrifices for her children and plans to have her children feed her own ambition. A 'Christian' woman, she forces her son Sean into the priesthood, and tries to force Máire into being a nun until she falls pregnant. Her main worry is not for her daughter but herself being "embarrassed in front of the neighbours!" She tries to give Máire alcohol in order to abort the baby, and stands up in court defending this- "It's not a sin to put an end to something unclean, something damned by God and by people". She seems not to care that her daughter is dead, only that she had been given a Catholic upbringing, and that it was Máire's own fault that she was marginalised.

North American Premiere[edit]

The show premiered in North America in its English translation at the University of Pittsburgh Stages Rauh Studio Theatre on April 19th, 2019, directed by Nic Barilar. It was presented as part of the Year of Pitt Global, featuring post-show talks from scholars of nearby universities specializing in Irish Culture. [4]


Chris Morash placed it on a level with Brian Friel's Philadelphia, Here I Come! and Eugene McCabe's King of the Castle. [5]

The play has been on the curriculum for the Irish-language Leaving Certificate examinations since 2006.[citation needed]


  1. ^ "C412 - 1964 Rehearsal for "An Triail" by Mired Ní Ghrada, which Gael-Linn presented at Damer Hall - Irish Photo Archive".
  2. ^ Grene, Nicholas; Morash, Chris (28 July 2016). "The Oxford Handbook of Modern Irish Theatre". Oxford University Press – via Google Books.
  3. ^ "Irish Public Service Broadcasting - 1920s". Michael Kerins [COB laugh}. Archived from the original on 11 July 2007. Retrieved 2007-07-13.
  4. ^ "ON TRIAL: The North American Premiere of an Irish Classic". University of Pittsburgh. Retrieved 2019-04-24.
  5. ^ Morash, Chris (1 January 2002). "A History of Irish Theatre 1601-2000". Cambridge University Press – via Google Books.