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Saturday, May 3, 2014


(James Alexander & Fiona Ramsay)

Outstanding production of a beautifully crafted play. (Review by Keith Millar)

The mission of The Playhouse Company’s New Stages Festival is to provide opportunities for South African productions that, as entertainment, are creative, original and, thought-provoking.

Well, with the outstanding production Doubt, which is on at the Loft Theatre this weekend, they have hit the mark. In so doing, they are demonstrating just how good South African Theatre can be.

Written 10 years ago by Johan Patrick Shanley the multi-award winning Doubt is a beautifully crafted play which displays elegance, subtlety and intensity.

The story is set at the fictional St Nicholas Catholic Church School in the Bronx in 1964. The school’s principal; is the uncompromising, rigidly conservative, Sister Aloysius. She feels deep mistrust for the parish priest, Father Flynn, who she suspects may be trying to form a relationship with one of her pupils. To complicate matters, the pupil Donald Muller is the school’s first African- American pupil.

Sister Aloysius browbeats a young nun, Sister James, into spying for her. James is an impressionable and naive young lady who is easily intimidated by her headmistress.

When Sister James reports on a mysterious meeting between Father Flynn and Donald Muller, Aloysius feels that her suspicions are confirmed. Especially since Muller came back from the meeting smelling of alcohol. This puts her in direct conflict with Father Flynn who denies any wrongdoing and offers  plausible explanations.

The inflexible protocol and hierarchy of the Catholic Church complicates her dealings with Father Flynn.

Not to be deterred, Aloysius calls in Muller’s mother for a meeting. The mother offers a different perspective and appears to be willing to turn a blind eye if only her son can complete his education and be saved him from the wrath of an abusive father.

The only thing all these characters have in common is doubt. They struggle with their beliefs and values and find that they have difficulties living with their certainties.

Doubt is an intense and harrowing story which is made more poignant by recent cases of sexual misconduct in the Catholic Church. The audience is left with plenty to think of, and talk about, as they try to come to terms with their own doubts.

In the role of Sister Aloysius, Fiona Ramsay is absolutely convincing and very human. She gives an astonishing, tour de force performance, which will live in the memory for a long time. Janna Ramos-Violante is very good as the vulnerable and impressionable Sister James - another fine performance to add to her impressive CV. James Alexander as Father Flynn is compelling while Faniswa Yisa makes the most of her brief appearance as Donald Miller’s mother.

James Cuningham’s direction is assured and confident and plays a major role in the brilliance of this production.

Doubt serves as a timely reminder of why we love theatre. We all crave to see the creativity, passion, dedication, talent and sheer skill inherent in all brilliant productions. Doubt, without a doubt, ticks all those boxes.

Catch the final performances of Doubt at the Loft Theatre at the Playhouse tomorrow (Sunday May 4) at 14h30. Tickets at R55 available from Computicket. - Keith Millar