Madame Geneva: a tale of gin and prostitution


  • MACHA Productions

Project summary

Macha Productions seeks to stage Madame Geneva, a bawdy song and dance set in 18th century London where performance, baroque, folk, contemporary music, professional and community actors all meet over a bottle of gin. Madame Geneva, the popular name for gin, lands with the Dutch armies of William of Orange, almost immediately invoking a gloriously decadent atmosphere across the classes. Sold at the cornershop, she offers the poor – particularly women – easy-to-access alcohol. The government struggles to find a way to reap rewards from gin taxes while trying to stop the lower classes from imbibing. To this end, Madame Geneva’s gin-addled image has been tied to fallen women, fishwives and bad mothers. This in turn influenced the establishment of the Magdalen Penitentiary where approaches to the reform of fallen women institutionalise narratives of good and bad women.

These moral narratives have survived and underpin current approaches to women, poverty, addiction, public health and social policy. Working with trainee actors from some of Northern Ireland’s most deprived communities and Dr Anne Campbell, Macha Productions’ professional team will premiere Madame Geneva at the Lyric Theatre in Belfast to provoke awareness, debate and media coverage on the rising tide of addiction that rampages through Northern Ireland’s post-conflict society.