How do you tell a story so horrible, involving so many cover-ups and so much abuse, yet still make it palatable as entertainment?
The Woman In The Wall, a six-part mystery drama starring Ruth Wilson and coming to BBC1 this week, has done just that.
It’s both a gothic horror story and a psychological thriller, with a police investigation that brings the Keystone Cops to mind thrown in, and the result is a spookily compelling, highly emotional and occasionally darkly humorous series that will have you gripped to the end.
At its heart is the grim true story of the Irish women forced into Roman Catholic institutions known as Magdalene Laundries (as well as the often-connected Mother and Baby Homes) in the 19th and 20th centuries.
They had their children taken from them and were put to work washing clothes. About 30,000 women and girls, including unmarried mothers, rape victims and troubled teenagers, were incarcerated in them until as recently as 1996.
The Woman In The Wall, a six-part mystery drama starring Ruth Wilson, is coming to BBC1 this week
The series is the brainchild of Joe Murtagh, whose family come from County Mayo where he based the fictional town of Kilkinure, the setting for the harrowing events.
He first learned about this tragic episode in Ireland’s past from Peter Mullan’s 2002 film The Magdalene Sisters.
‘The film was horrifying and when I read up about it I couldn’t believe it had happened,’ he says. ‘Almost as horrifying was that every single person I mentioned it to had never heard of it.’
Joe held back from writing about it at first, but as more came out – including the discovery in 2014 of a mass grave containing