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Mollspeak is an immersive sound installation by internationally renowned writer Maria Fusco in collaboration with composer Olivier Pasquet.

In the Undercroft | Now closed

The experimental lyrical piece is voiced by Maxine Peake. It reveals the pains, desires and routines of 18th-century maid servants, drawing from extensive archival research and objects in the Museum's collections.

The work is an ever-changing composition of word and sound, highlighting the interchangeability of servants: you will never hear the same version twice.

The arches of the Undercroft lit from the floor with benched seating Photograph by Harriet Maxwell
'The grand supply of servants comes from the country; and I believe more women from the North of England, than from any other quarter.' Oxford Magazine (1771)

Mollspeak, is an eighteenth-century phrase employers coined to mock their servants' dialectical speech.

This sound installation sets just such a servant's voice within an immersive experimental soundscape.

Maria Fusco's original script mingles new research with historic poetic form to give voice to a working class maid servant's story – reflecting on her duties, her desires and her place in the world – to create a plainly spoken, yet lyrical portrait.

A leather covered box with printed paper lining and a gold lock Servant's box - leather covered box with printed paper lining, c.1790. Object number 3/1938-3

This servant's box would have held personal belongings.

The accompanying soundscape is created with 3D sound scans of these personal objects from the Museum's collection.

They include a tinder box, a teaspoon, a candlestick, a horn cup and a paper doll.

Paper doll representing an old woman with basket of flowers and walking stick Paper doll representing an old woman with basket of flowers and walking stick Object number 36/1936

Maria Fusco is an award winning Belfast-born writer, working across fiction and performance writing. Her work is translated into 10 languages. She is currently Professor of Interdisciplinary Writing at the University of Dundee.

Olivier Pasquet is a French composer specialising in sound for performance.

Maxine Peake is an acclaimed English stage, radio, film and television actress.

The work was installed in the Undercroft by Christina Karpodini; a composer, media artist and singer based in London.

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