John Patrick Shanley's multi-award winning drama is a study of perception and judgement, when a nun accuses a priest of sexual misconduct with a child. Originally produced in 2004, the author sets the action in 1964, when society's innocence was far greater than it is today.
Sister Aloysius Beauvoir is a hardnosed and very conservative school Principal who will go to any lengths to protect the children. Father Brendan Flynn is a tactile, progressive priest who believes that sometimes all anyone needs a friend to listen.
When a student returns to class agitated and with alcohol on his breath, after being seen alone with Father Flynn, the Sister becomes obsessed with exposing her superior's wrongdoings. The ensuing witch hunt is emotionally devastating on both sides of the dispute but the question of who is right is left open for the audience to decide.
Robert McCarthy's direction of this engaging play is evenly paced and ultimately enjoyable, but the central characters lack enough shades of grey to make the audience's allegiance waver.
Sister Beauvior is played by Julie Quick, who assumed the role at short notice after the original cast member had to withdraw from the play. With a strong stage presence, she ably presents the passionate, obsessive blindness that the character develops. Nigel Tripod skilfully balances the emotional complexities of a loving priest and the frustrations of a man accused.
The strong leads are supported by an equally good performance by Miriam Keane as the child's angst-ridden teacher and the only person to harbour any doubts about what happened. The child's mother, played by Da Lingo, adds another layer to the complexities of the argument, with an attitude that firmly sets the action of this play in the sixties.
McCarthy's stark set provides three acting areas: the priest's pulpit, the Sister's office, and a garden bench; the latter being neutral territory where rhetoric becomes genuine conversation.
The play is short, running only 90 minutes with no interval, but its potential to make us all question our assumptions is well realised in this worthwhile production.
Venue: St Jude's Hall, 444 Brighton Road, Brighton
Season: 19 – 28 April 2012
Duration: 90 minutes, no interval
Tickets: $15.00 – $19.00
Bookings: Phone 8270 4205 or 8296 2628 (Mon-Fri, 9am to 5pm only for both numbers) or online