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Posts Tagged ‘John Patrick Stanley’

Lured by rave reviews (again), I went to a lot of trouble to see this play. I created a West Sussex weekend around its last scheduled performance, but it became a Covid casualty a couple of days before. I went ahead with the weekend anyway. It was rescheduled, so I succumbed to a second attempt, this time a day trip where the return journey was four times the length of the play.

John Patrick Shanley’s 2004 play has been much produced around the world since it’s original Broadway success, also made into a successful film in 2008. I think the only London run was a couple of months at the then Tricycle Theatre in 2007. I have to confess I struggle to understand why it’s been so successful. I didn’t dislike it, but I was somewhat underwhelmed by it. With little by way of set and just four characters, it seemed static and more than a bit lost in such a big theatre. It might have fared better at the Minerva next door. I would certainly have preferred a more intimate venue.

It’s set in a New York catholic school in 1964, long before the high profile exposure of paedophilia in the church. At the core of the piece is a clash between progressive priest Father Flynn and a conservative nun, school principal Sister Aloysius. She interprets and infers sexual misconduct from a one-to-one meeting between the priest and the school’s first African American student. The boy’s mother does not support her witch-hunt, but she tricks the priest by claiming to have obtained evidence from his past. He seeks and obtains a transfer, somewhat ironically a promotion. The audience are left in doubt, which is the show’s point. We have to live with uncertainty, but our judgemental world today doesn’t seem to leave much room for that.

The performances are outstanding, with Monica Dolan and Sam Spruell a brilliant match for the conflict they have to present, and there’s fine support from newcomer Jessica Rhodes as naive young Sister James and Rebecca Scroggs as the mother drawn into the conflict, who had hitherto been happy her son had found a welcoming school at last.

I’d have been satisfied by this in an intimate London venue, but I can’t ignore the fact it was £60 (inc. travel) and a six hour round-trip, which weren’t really repaid, but that was my choice, my decision.

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