Belfast Girls

Full-Length Play, Drama  /  5f

  “I smell blood all over this ship. I smell two hundred women sick an’ scared an’ missin’ bairns an’ mothers an’ fathers they’re not supposed to even have. Can’t ya smell them? Can’t ya hear them?”

  • Cast Size
    Cast Size
  • SubGenre
  • Audience
    Target Audience
    Adult, Senior, Teen (Age 14 - 18)
Licence details
  • Minimum Fee: £69 per performance plus VAT when applicable.



Escaping the Irish famine in 1850 five young women seek passage on a ship to Australia. For many of the ‘orphan girls’ on board, the voyage offers a fresh start. But some girls find they cannot escape the memory of the lives they’ve left behind - and that the closer they get to Australia the more powerful the past becomes.

Jaki McCarrick won the 2010 Papatango Prize for New Writing for her play Leopoldville. Belfast Girls was developed at the National Theatre Studio, and was shortlisted for the 2012 Susan Smith Blackburn Prize and the 2014 BBC Tony Doyle Award.

Reviews of professional productions in Chicago and Vancouver, 2017:

“Jaki McCarrick’s captivating play Belfast Girls tells the story of five young women who escape starvation in 1850 Ireland by winning passage on a ship bound for Australia as part of Earl Grey’s ‘orphan scheme.’ McCarrick examines themes of class division, race and misogyny through the turbulent journey of these women’s lives which are in one moment heartbreaking and the next humourous.” Vanvouverpresents.com

“Here is an incredible play… The script was incredible and fulsome, the characters totally well flushed out. While the subject matter was deep, the emotional levels allowed the experience to be both enjoyable and moving. The play is an exploration of women moving to other peoples' land to start a new life where their lives in Ireland were horrendous, because acts of colonization (the exportation of their food sources for the privileged people's enrichment and/or enjoyment) was literally starving them to death ... chilling.” Karen Tsang

"A really powerful ensemble piece." Vancouver Sun

"The timing of Belfast Girls and its story of 1850 Irish women emigrating to Australia is perfect in 2017." Brokenlegreviews

"The strength of McCarrick's themes point to the likelihood of its becoming a popular addition to the regional circuit... Highly recommended." Windy City Times

"...a thought-provoking work of historic fiction and tremendous imagination." Theatre World Internet Magazine

"McCarrick provides all these injustices with human faces... and provides a fine study of characters and their world.  Recommended."  The Chicago Critic

Belfast Girls premiered at the Kings Head Theatre, Islington, London on 1st August 2011, as part of the theatre's Monday Night Without Decor season. It was further developed at the National Theatre Studio, London in January 2012.
Cast Attributes
  • All Female
  • Time Period 19th Century
  • Features Period Costumes
  • Cautions
    • Mild Adult Themes



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Jaki McCarrick

Jaki McCarrick is an award-winning writer. Her play Leopoldville won the 2010 Papatango Prize for New Writing, and her most recent play, Belfast Girls, developed at the National Theatre Studio, London, was shortlisted for the 2012 Susan Smith Blackburn Prize and the 2014 BBC ...
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