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Tuesday, September 17, 2013


As the title suggests, even those with certainties can be unsure. (Review by Margaret von Klemperer, courtesy of The Witness)

Events in the last few years, from Vatican scandals to revelations about Ireland’s Magdalen Laundries, have reinforced stereotypes of abusive priests and nasty nuns. Initially Doubt, recently seen at the Witness Hilton Arts Festival, buys in to those stereotypes: James Alexander’s Father Flynn is perceived to be too close to the first negro child to come to a school in the Bronx – the play is set in 1964 – which the headmistress, Sister Aloysius (Fiona Ramsay) rules with a rod of iron. She’s a nasty nun, for sure. Very nasty.

But, as the title suggests, even those with certainties can be unsure. It is here that the play scores. The audience, too, is left wondering who to believe, manoeuvring uneasily between their own prejudices and the ambiguous evidence presented to them. Is Father Flynn an abuser? Sister Aloysius is convinced; the young, idealistic nun, Sister James (Janna Ramos-Violante) wavers and the child’s mother (Faniswa Yisa) has her own, deeply problematic reasons for reacting as she does to the allegations.

To my mind, the play fails to deal with that part of the plot adequately. Yisa’s role is a small one, and her revelations come too late in the play to do more than muddy the already turbid waters. In the end, although ostensibly leaving a message with the audience that doubt is always better that rigid certainty, Doubt will leave most with their prejudices and views of stereotypes intact. - Margaret von Klemperer