Is The Woman in The Wall on BBC a true story?

the woman in the wall bbc
Is The Woman in The Wall a true story?BBC/Motive Pictures/Chris Barr

In the BBC’s latest harrowing drama, The Woman in The Wall, Ruth Wilson plays Lorna Brady, a woman who discovers a dead body in her house. But after suffering from severe trauma and bouts of sleepwalking, she has no idea whether she was involved with the woman's death or who the woman might be.

If you’ve watched the first episode of the six-part series, it may have left you wondering if the show was based on a true story. And as you may have expected, there is some truth behind the shocking series.

the woman in the wall bbc
BBC/Motive Pictures/Chris Barr

Is The Woman in The Wall a true story?

While the story that plays out on screen isn’t a true story, it is inspired by real-life stories of those who spent time imprisoned in Magdalene Laundries.

The Magdalene Laundries were institutions that accepted so-called “fallen women” – women who had been abused, unmarried mothers, promiscuous women, women with disabilities and more – who would then perform demanding physical labour for no pay. Some survivors have also reported being physically or sexually abused by those in charge, with Lorna having suffered during her own time in one of the Laundries.

While this may all seem like something from the history books, these institutions continued to operate as recently as 1996.

the woman in the wall bbc
BBC/Motive Pictures/Chris Barr

If you hadn’t heard of this shocking scandal until now, you’re not the only one. Even the show’s creator, Joe Murtagh, “knew nothing about the Magdalene laundries,” until he saw The Magdalene Sisters in film school and was inspired to share the “harrowing” story with more people.

"It was an eye-opening experience realising how this this horrific thing had happened. The thing that was more horrifying was to realise that I hadn't known about this and every single person that I mentioned this to had never heard of this and that's still true today outside of Ireland,” he revealed to Digital Spy.

Some of the women and girls stayed in these institutions for the entirety of their lives, where they were strictly monitored by nuns who would punish anyone thought to have had even the slightest indiscretion.

ruth wilson in the woman in the wall
BBC/Motive Pictures/Chris Barr

What is The Woman in The Wall about?

When Lorna wakes up to discover a mysterious dead body in her house, she has no idea who the dead woman is or if she had anything to do with her death. This is because Lorna has suffered from sleepwalking ever since she was a teenager, when she spent time in the Kilkinure Convent Magdalene Laundry. While Lorna was housed in that institution, she gave birth and the baby was taken away from her.

Detective Colman Akande (Daryl McCormack) begins investigating the case, while hiding secrets of his own, as he quickly becomes embroiled in Lorna's life and in her search for what exactly happened to her baby daughter.

The Woman in The Wall is available to watch on BBC One and BBC iPlayer.

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