Work on The Trial continues….

Work on our visual arts installation The Trial continues in time for the private launch on 12 April 2018 in the Old Courthouse in Kilmainham Gaol Museum, Dublin. The installation will run all day everyday from 13 April until 26 April.

The Trial is a collaborative project between artist Sinead McCann, UCD historians Catherine Cox and Fiachra Byrne, participants and staff at the Bridge Project [1] in Dublin 8, Theatre of the Oppressed [2] specialist Sarah Meaney, and video production company, ‘Sixbetween’,  which focuses on the theme of healthcare in Irish prisons.

Filming took place in January and McCann is now working on editing the footage with ‘Sixbetween’ and the design of the installation, while the UCD team members are working on the plans for the launch!

Multiple screens and speakers will be installed in the Old Courthouse. On the screens, three characters – Tommy, Charlie, Neili – play out various perspectives on healthcare in Irish prisons during the nineteenth and twentieth centuries.


Tommy (played by actor Tommy O’Neill) performs a series of monologues created by five men from the Bridge Project about their own lived experience of healthcare in Irish prison. The monologues also draw on nineteenth- and twentieth-century historical documents, while O’Neill, who served a prison sentence in Ireland, brings his experience to the role.

Working with the men in workshops, O’Neill performed their monologues to them. This allowed the men to provide feedback, which O’Neill incorporated into his approach to his performance. Using two nineteenth-century case studies of healthcare in prison, provided by Cox and Byrne, O’Neill assumed the role of historical prisoners in workshops. This was a way to engage the men on the historical material, and sparked off discussions on the relationship, and differences, between the historical cases and their own experience.  All discussions were documented and part of these made their way into the script!


The other characters seen in the production are: (played by young actor from Kildare Youth Theatre Charlie Hughes Farrell ) who delivers a series of monologues based on some of the men’s childhood experiences in Saint Patrick’s Institution, and documents relating to an enquiry into Saint Patrick’s Institution in the 1960s.  This material was also workshopped in collaboration with the men.

Neili (played by actor Neili Conroy) performs a series of written responses from professionals working in the criminal justice field in Ireland to the men’s monologues. These professionals include representatives from the Irish Prison Service, a prison chaplain, an addiction counsellor, two ex-governors, and a representative from the Irish Penal Reform Trust.


The three characters appear on the multiple screens and will speak to and interrupt each other throughout the single loop art installation. Text from documents dated from 1840s, 1960s and 1970s appear, interspersed, on the screens. The running time is under twenty-five minutes and the piece will play throughout the day. The artwork will offer multiple perspectives on the long history of healthcare in prison inviting visitors to the exhibition to reflect on the narratives presented and form their own opinions.

 Image Credit: Video Stills by ‘Sixbetween’ © copyright at Sinead McCann & ‘Sixbetween’, images not to be used without permission. 

[1] The Bridge Project is a community-based organization which aims to reduce recidivism rates for high risk violent offenders from the greater Dublin area. The Bridge project aims to bringing about sustainable change for offenders through a range of evidenced-based, structured programmes delivered by a multi-disciplinary team of experienced project workers and volunteers co-located with a fully integrated Probation Team.

[2] Theatre of the Oppressed is a strand of theatre formed by Brazilian theatre practitioner Augusto Boal. Boal’s theatre making techniques uses theatre as a means for social change.

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