A Life Sentence by Eleanor Byrne.

Eleanor Byrne delivers an open and honest monologue style play in honour of her Grandmother. Under the brilliant direction by Jessica Arden. The life Sentence refers to the permanent damage that the childbirth procedure symphysiotomy had done to her pelvis and the unimaginable pain and life-changing event that she endured.

The harsh reality of being a Catholic wife hits home when the medical notes are revealed. Performing a symphysiotomy was a favourable barbaric procedure carried out in hospitals regularly to prevent women from undergoing caesarian sections which would have meant that after two or three births this would lead to sterilisation. Which as a Catholic lady she cannot undergo due to not being allowed to use any form of contraception.

Byrnes explanation is told through unedited graphic details. From the moment she had entered the operating theatre. The horror of the blood splattered nurses uniforms leaves a haunting image. Questioning as to how this was ever considered the preferable option for Catholic wives? Childbirth can be traumatic enough without inflicting unnecessary life long physical damage onto the Mother.

The scene in which her Grandmother attends a support group and explains the condition other women had been left in highlighted how widespread the use of this procedure had been and how bad the damage was. One lady, in particular, spent the rest of her life paralysed in a wheelchair.

There was no doubting her passion and conviction as she delivered this powerful piece as much of the performance her eyes told the audience how much love she felt for this lady as they filled with tears. Holding her composure at all times and she refused to break down at any point.

Superbly delivered and a fitting tribute to her Grandmother along with the thousands of other ladies who these would have had this forced upon them. It is a performance raising awareness of what took place and as an audience member, I suggest leaving your beliefs and opinions at the door and watch it with an open mind.

Four Stars.


Eleanor Byrne

Directed by Jessica Arden


5th and 6th May 2019

Cat Back Theatre

SW18 1NN.



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