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Tuesday, September 24, 2013


(James Alexander as Father Flynn & Fiona Ramsay as Sister Aloysius)

Which is the stronger emotion – doubt or instinct? And if instinct offers a more positive response to the problem in hand, how does doubt fit in?

Presented by Thinskin, Doubt: A Parable, was one of the finest drama pieces on the 2013 Witness Hilton Arts Festival.

John Patrick Shanley’s Pulitzer prize and Tony Award winning play is set in 1964 in the fictional St. Nicholas Church School, in the Bronx. It is a beautifully-written and thought-provoking play that offers a strong vehicle for the talented cast under James Cuningham’s solid direction.

The only gripe I have with this presentation is that the caps of the nuns’ habits masked the sides of their faces, effectively distancing us from the important emotions playing on their features. I understand that the design of the caps (rather like Voortrekker bonnets) were taken from a real religious order but they didn’t work for me in a stage context.

Fiona Ramsay gives a searing performance as the inflexible Sister Aloysius who is firmly convinced that Father Flynn, a young priest teaching at her school, is having an inappropriate relationship with Donald Muller, one of the schoolboys. Added to the problem is the fact that the boy is St. Nicholas’s first African-American student.

Sister James, a young nun played with youthful passion and spirit by Janna Ramos-Violante, makes a statement about the child’s behaviour after he had spent some time alone with the priest. This sets Sister Aloysius firmly on the trail to discrediting Father Flynn and having him removed from the school in disgrace.

Faniswa Yisa gives a good performance as Donald’s mother, who isn’t much help. As far as she is concerned, Donald is only at the school for another few months and she’s more concerned that he moves to his next institute of learning without any negative baggage.

James Alexander gives such an uncluttered and sincere performance as the popular Father Flynn that the audience begins to doubt Sister Aloysius’s rigid stance. Is he guilty … or not? The play leaves audiences to make their own decision. – Caroline Smart