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Mental ill-health in Irish jails is theatrical topic
A scene from The Examination

14 Aug 2019 / Ireland Print

Mental ill-health in Irish jails is theatrical topic

Dublin’s fringe theatre festival next month will feature a production with a strong legal theme.

The Examination is the latest production from award-winning Irish theatre company, Brokentalkers. It features actor and stand-up comedian Willie White, who served time in prison, exploring ill-health inside our prisons.

The show will be performed at the Project Arts Centre for Dublin’s Fringe Festival from 7-14 September.

Based on historical academic research and on testimony from current and former prisoners, The Examination tells the story of the large number of prisoners struggling with mental and physical ill-health, and with addiction, inside Ireland’s jails.

Worrying figure

Today, there are approximately 4,000 people in Ireland’s 12 prisons, with over 3,000 staff.

It is estimated that about 8% of the prison population has a severe, enduring and disabling mental illness.

The Prison Service employs 146 healthcare staff members, including four doctors, but struggles to recruit prison psychiatrists.

The Examination originally premiered last March at the Project Arts Centre, Dublin.

The project was the outcome of a year-long research process that saw directors Gary Keegan and Feidlim Cannon speak to prisoners and ex-prisoners.

Historical research

Gary and Feidlim also drew on wider historical analysis of the topic undertaken by Associate Professor Catherine Cox (UCD), with Professor Hilary Marland and Dr Rachel Bennett (University of Warwick).

That research was entitled Prisoners, Medical Care and Entitlement to Health in England and Ireland, 1850-2000. Funded by the Wellcome Trust, the research project was led by Catherine Cox, School of History, University College Dublin.

Brokentalkers is a multi-award-winning Dublin-based theatre company, founded in 2001 by Gary Keegan and Feidlim Cannon. It has built a reputation as one of Ireland's most innovative and original theatre companies.


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