Can a story set in Georgian Ireland reflect the darker themes of the current pandemic?

Completed during the first lockdown,  ‘The Deliciously Scandalous Life and Times of Miss Peg Plunkett’, was based on ‘The Memoirs of Mrs Leeson’, one of the earliest salacious “tell-all’s”. 

The play brings a sense of cabin fever as a woman who seldom leaves the house is left to die with an incurable disease, said Eve O’Mahony, the writer of the play. The Tipperary born writer also plays the titular character in this one-woman show.

Peg Plunkett – brothel-keeper, courtesan, mistress, writer, gossip-columnist and penitent – is an old and repentant woman seeking absolution. She reflects on her life and loves and how it all came to pass. 

The play highlights the dangers that can arise from corruption and what happens if we, as a society, ignore the plight of the vulnerable. 

The historical figure, Margaret ‘Peg’ Plunkett, was born in County Westmeath in the first half of the eighteenth century. After her mother’s death, she moved to Dublin where she initially relied on the support of men. Peg adopted the surname of a Mr Leeson (although she did not marry him). 

At one point she started her first brothel with a friend. The business had other addresses but finally occupied premises in Pitt Street (now Balfe Street, near Grafton Street). Peg retired after thirty years and began to write her memoirs (published in three volumes) as her income reduced. 

“As a writer I seek to delve deep into their psyche and their peers,” said Eve O’Mahony. 

“In my opinion, the arts should not only be a cultural outlet but also a living, breathing entity that can contribute to society,” she said. “In the play, I seek to highlight the teachings of Boel’s Theatre of the Oppressed who sought to highlight systematic exploitation and expression in society. It allowed for spectators to become participants rather than mere audience members.”

‘The Deliciously Scandalous Life and Times of Miss Peg Plunkett’ will be performed in the Clonmel Junction Arts Festival (CJAF) 2021, which marks its 20th anniversary this year. The play previously had its first outing at CJAF in 2020.

This will be her second play performed in the festival’s history. Her first play, ‘The Bold Brigid Cleary’, debuted at CJAF in 2018. It tells the story of Brigid Cleary who was best known as the last witch to be burned in Ireland. The play toured nationally after its debut at the festival and won Best Actress at the Galway Fringe Festival 2018.

According to Eve, while her first play, ‘Brigid Cleary’’, highlighted the dangers that can arise out of jealousy, gossip and fear-mongering in a small society, this one is a reflection of the damage that social media can inflict if used in an irresponsible manner. 

You can see Eve’s performance on July 8, 2021 at 6:30 pm. To book now, click here

More about the festival: 

20 years after its founding, the Clonmel Junction Arts festival is the pre-eminent arts organisation in Clonmel, providing a platform for regional and national artists. 

A multi-disciplinary Arts Festival, CJAF celebrates the town of Clonmel and the talented artists who live and work there. 

The theme of this year’s festival is ‘Identity (What’s In A Name?)’. “If the arts hold a mirror up to society, who are we in 2021? And how have we changed?” wrote the organisers of the festival in the official website.

This year the festival will be mostly online but there will also be a few outdoors events.

Among the events that will be running throughout the festival are various visual arts installations, music performances, and six short animated films centred around the topic of ‘Identity’. 

Local and national theatre makers will also present new and exciting plays and musical theatre. Pat Kinevane’s ‘Before’ will also be among them.

You can read more about the other events here.  

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