The Contraceptive Train On Track For Abbey Theatre!

The critically acclaimed musical ‘The Train’, which is inspired by a remarkable true story involving a former Hot Press writer and has a score composed by Bill Whelan of Riverdance fame, is to be staged at The Abbey next spring.

The musical is a "fictional celebration" of actual events surrounding the legendary so-called “contraceptive train” way back in 1971. Determined to challenge the restrictive laws of the Irish State at the time – which prohibited the sale of condoms over the counter in the Republic – a group of 47 trailblazing women took the train to Belfast and returned to Dublin with the forbidden contraceptives.

One of the 12 founding members of the Irish Woman’s Liberation Movement involved in the “contraceptive train” was our very own Nell McCafferty, who wrote a column for Hot Press for many years.

There was chants of “let them through” from the public in the packed train station as bewildered custom officials at Connolly Station didn’t know what to make of the situation.

“The first item on our agenda was to legalise contraception in Ireland, which at that time was forbidden. And if you were caught in possession of them you faced a jail sentence or a large fine, ” recalled Nell in an interview with the BBC.

It’s now looked upon today as a remarkable media coup orchestrated by the Irish Women’s Liberation Movement, which helped to change the social landscape of Ireland.

Rough Magic Theatre Company’s production of the musical based on the historical train journey – which premiered in Ireland in 2015 with successful seasons in Limerick and at the Dublin Theatre Festival – will be stage at our national theatre from April 6-15, it was announced last night.

The infamous short journey, which marked the beginning of a modern odyssey, is a watershed moment in Irish social and political life that is joyously captured by Arthur Riordan’s wit and Bill Whelan’s dynamic score.

The show is directed by Lynne Parker. It will also feature a live band under the musical direction of Cathal Synnott.

The nine-strong cast includes Lisa Lambe, Clare Barrett, Kate Gilmore, Darragh Kelly and Emmet Kirwan.

“We wanted to start our first season on the Abbey stage by inviting in Irish artists, companies and shows we have long admired,” said Neil Murray and Graham McLaren, Directors of the Abbey Theatre in a statement released yesterday evening.

“From a revolutionary stance 45 years ago, this story still has an amazing urgency and potency in the context of issues still affecting today. If you haven’t seen Rough Magic’s The Train yet, you should, and if you have seen it you should see it again.”

The critics have been full of praise for the musical, with the Irish Independent saying it “hits the emotional hot spot” and the Irish Times describing it as “a ball of energy, the pace enhanced by a quintet of live musicians... this kinetic production reminds us how far women have come."

A preview of the show will be staged at the Abbey Theatre at the National Theatre on 6 April, 7.30pm, with the musical running between 7-15 April, 7.30pm. It will be shown on Mondays to Saturday at 7.30pm, with matinees on Saturdays at 2pm

Tickets cost €13 – €45, with concession tickets priced at. €13 – €25 Bookings can be made on


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