Chichester Festival Theatre – until 5th February 2022
Reviewed by Emma Barnes and Gill Gardiner
The play by John Patrick Stanley, which has won the Pulitzer Prize for drama, is set in 1964 in a small convent school in the Bronx. Sister Aloysius (played by Monica Dolan) is a strong minded headmistress, who is wedded to tradition and unafraid to fight for her beliefs. She wrestles with an intense moral dilemma when she becomes suspicious about Father Flynn’s relationship with a child. Father Flynn (played by Sam Spruell) is liberal minded and charismatic. Stuck in the middle is a naive and sensitive younger nun, Sister James (played by Jessica Rhodes)
The story is told in 90 riveting minutes in conversations between just four actors who portrayed their characters with impeccable dynamism.
The production delivers raw simplicity with minimal scenery and props which serves to give the knotty complexity of the themes the prominence that the audience requires to focus on the dialogue. The most provocatively powerful scene is without doubt the difficult conversation between Mrs Muller (played by Rebecca Scroggs) and Sister Aloysius which delivers to an even deeper level of moral uncertainty.
A beautifully balanced debate drama which leaves you doubting your own thoughts and preconceptions at every turn. The complex but nuanced plot was neatly balanced by the sharp wit of Sister Aloysius which gave light relief. We left the play still enraptured within the story, still desperate for closure on who , if anyone, had fallen from grace. Father Flynn asked “ What do you do when you’re not sure? “ to be honest, we don’t know either!
A powerful, intense and thought-provoking play of moral uncertainty with a superb cast; very watchable and highly recommended.