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Ladies of the Sacred Heart

Tuesday, 7 September, 2010

Sisters

Edinburgh 10 – theSpaces @ Surgeons Hall – 6-28 August­­ 2010 – 19.00 (0:45)

Ladies of the Sacred Heart is a comic play which takes an initially light-hearted look at the travails of an order or nuns before unleashing a wicked twist in the tale.

Set in a convent, the plot follows Mother Superior Sister Mary (Natasha Nightingale) as she welcomes new arrival Sister Catherine (Stephanie Glide) into the order.  She is hindered in her holy duty by the foul-mouthed, heavy-drinking, party animal Sister Maud (Roisin Kelly) who is more intent on getting a ticket to see a pop concert and drinking Guinness than she is in worshipping the almighty.  Sister Mary is also disrupted in her mission by a swiftly-established sexual attraction to Sister Catherine, lapsing into embarrassing Freudian slips at every turn.

Taking equal time to introduce the new nun to her duties and remonstrating with Sister Maud for her antics (including a memorable scene featuring a large vibrator), the Superior has her work cut out.  As the sexual tension between Sister Catherine and Sister Mary increases the Superior increasingly gets involved in ever-more-suggestive positions as she engages in the daily chores, often with her habit tucked into her pants.  It is only when she threatens to expel Sister Maud that her true relationship to the errant Sister begins to surface – leading Sister Catherine to worry about her Superior’s very sanity.

The tone of the piece is set early on with a set comprising a desk, crucifix and alter seemingly dedicated to Boyzone singer Ronan Keating.  Thus begins a number of sly digs at the dogma of the Catholic Church, most evident when shortly after bemoaning the convent’s precarious financial state Sister Mary blows her nose on a ten pound note.

Roisin Kelly is the undoubted star of the show, with her garrulous Irish accent investing the oft-truculent Sister Maud with a delightful naughtiness.  Whether mispronouncing the word ‘Bible’, scoffing the alter wine or exhibiting shock at a nun’s requirement to pray, she is a wonderfully drawn comic character.

Natasha Nightingale portrays Sister Mary as the stereotypical buttoned-up nun with frustrations boiling up inside of her but never let loose.  Her obvious chemistry with her fellow cast members keeps the play rolling-on and ties together the entire performance effortlessly.

Stephanie Glide has little to do as Sister Catherine other than to provide a foil to the comic antics of the other two actresses. She does, however, make a fine ‘straightwoman’ and her increasing incredulity at the actions of Sister Mary provides plenty to laugh at.

The writing, by Roisin Kelly, is sparky although it occasionally lapses a little too much into smuttiness reminiscent of the Carry On films.  The joke involving St Mary’s habit being tucked into her knickers goes on a shade too long and serves no final purpose.  It sometimes seems that the writer is unsure about whether to aim for full-on satire or knock-about physical comedy and the play is left accomplishing neither form satisfactorily.

The direction, again by the multi-talented Roisin Kelly, is brisk with very little to distract from the main story.

Cast Credits: Stephanie Glide – Sister Catherine.  Roisin Kelly – Sister Maud.  Natasha Nightingale – Sister Mary.

Company Credits: Writer – Roisin Kelly.  Manager – Roisin Kelly.  Technical Manager – Louise Thomas.

(c) David Hepburn 2010

Reviewed Friday 28 August

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