London stage takes on taboo of stillbirth in play about Ann Lovett tragedy

The tragic death 30 years ago of Irish schoolgirl Ann Lovett is the subject of a play to be staged in London next month.

London stage takes on taboo of stillbirth in play about Ann Lovett tragedy

The theme of Caroline Bowder’s play, Conversations with Mary, is how a stillborn child’s brief existence changes centuries of ignorance and cruelty towards babies who die in their mother’s womb.

Conversations with Mary, will be showing at three London venues in April.

Ms Bowder achieved critical acclaim two years ago with her Henley Fringe Festival debut, The Body, a powerful, poignant, funny and finally triumphant take on bowel cancer.

Now she has turned her spotlight onto another taboo subject — stillbirth.

The premiere of her new play coincides with the 30th anniversary of the lonely death of 15-year-old Ann Lovett who died in January 1984 giving birth to her baby in front of a statue of the Virgin Mary outside Granard in Co Longford.

The death of the young mother and her newborn caused a furore in Ireland because of the Church and community’s attitude towards pregnant girls.

“Conversations with Mary shows that England was little better than Ireland,” said Ms Bowder.

“Mothers who lost their babies in childbirth found that they were snatched away before they could even see them or hold them. If they were married, they were just told to try again. The Roman Catholic Church said that because the babies had died unbaptised they were condemned to Limbo and would not see God.

“Many of these ancient prejudices persist today. The play challenges the Church and the community to face their past cruelty towards mothers left devastated by stillbirth.”

The UK has one of the highest rates of stillbirths in the developed world, 3.5 per 1000 births. Nevertheless two years ago the government cut funds to pay for the annual recording of stillbirth in the country.

“The Catholic Church, after a recent re-think, now admits these babies might go to heaven, but, it says, it can’t be sure. The play, in a cosmic challenge by the Virgin Mary, condemns her own Church for its shamefaced caution,” Ms Bowder explained.

The play will run for three weeks.

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