For those who grew up in Ireland in the mid-20th century, the stories of the Magdelene Laundries were things whispered about, terrifying accounts of what happened to girls who weren't virtuous or at least very careful. But in 1993, with the uncovering of a mass of unmarked graves of 155 women, the truth behind those whispers broke wide open as journalists and reporters dug deep to uncover the truth about these asylums that operated from the 18th century onward. The BBC Showtime co-production, The Woman in the Wall, will tell one of those stories, gothic thriller style.
The original Dublin Magdalen Asylum (sometimes called Magdalen Asylum for Penitent Females) was initially founded in was founded in 1765 by Lady Arabella Denny, meant to reform prostitutes, but quickly became a place where any pregnant-outside-of-marriage family member was sent. It started a series of country-wide Church of Ireland-run institutions, initially for Protestant women; however, Catholic-run Magdalene asylums quickly followed and lasted far longer, deep into the 20th century, forcing these women into slavery, with both quietly supported by the state.
The investigations into these places started with the discovery of the bodies. They lasted until 2013, when the Irish Government issued a formal state apology and a £50 million compensation scheme for survivors was set up. In the interim, films like The Magdalene Sisters and TV movies like Sinners have dramatized the story. The Woman in the Wall is the first TV series to tackle it.
Here's the series synopsis:
Lorna Brady is a woman from the small, fictional Irish town of Kilkinure who wakes one morning to find a corpse in her house. Chillingly, Lorna has no idea who the dead woman is or if she herself might be responsible for the apparent murder. That’s because Lorna has long suffered from extreme bouts of sleepwalking ever since she was ripped from her life at the age of 15 and incarcerated in a convent. There, Lorna gave birth to her daughter Agnes, who was cruelly taken from her and whose fate Lorna has never known.
Unluckily for Lorna, Detective Colman Akande is now also on her tail for a crime seemingly unrelated to the body she has discovered in her house. The ambitious Colman quickly rose through the ranks of the Garda Síochána thanks to his natural aptitude. His scathing wit hides a quiet sadness, and when he meets Lorna Brady, he finds himself forced to confront his own haunting secrets.
As Colman searches for a murderer and Lorna searches for her daughter, their paths collide in ways they could never have anticipated. Lorna’s search for Agnes will take her deep into her own past and to the heart of Kilkinure’s darkest secrets, as she and Colman seek the answers they each so desperately need.
Ruth Wilson (Mrs. Wilson) plays Lorna Brady, with Daryl McCormack (Peaky Blinders) as Det. Colman Akande. The rest of the cast has not been confirmed as yet. All six episodes were written by series creator Joe Murtagh (Gangs of London), with helming duties split between directors Harry Wootliff (His Dark Materials) and Rachna Suri (Children of Men). Murtagh, Wilson, and Wootliff executive produce, along with Simon Maxwell (Deep State), Sam Lavender (Saint Maud), with Lucy Richer for BBC. The series was made on location in Northern Ireland with funding from Northern Ireland Screen.
The Woman in the Wall will premiere first in the U.K. on BBC One and Player before moving to Showtime and streaming on Paramount+ in late 2023.