Caitlin is a naughty nun, she loves another man more than Jesus. In a bid for purity, and to escape her father, Caitlin becomes a novice at the craziest and kindest nunnery I have ever seen. Accompanied by a brood of crack-pot orphans and strict yet kind nuns, Caitlin battles with some deep issues; life, death, love, other people’s expectations (especially the dead ones) and the true adoration of Andy Williams. Whilst this play confronts serious topics Hasler’s excellent script accompanied by Mayhew’s direction, and the sterling efforts of the entire cast, meant the only time I cried it was with laughter!
The show really is funny and this is partly down to style. A cast of four deliver at least 10 roles between them; Mitchell for example playing a Scottish nun, an orphan with imaginary siblings including a sister called Nietzsche, a cockney bloke, and a French romancer by turns was both impressive and simultaneously hilarious. I think the hair clips reinforced the reality of a bloke playing a nun in plain sight and enhanced the comedic effect. Similar contrasting roles such as Platt’s novice nun to drunken royal, and Hasler’s strict nun to west-country orphan, keep the play dynamic and entertaining.
Being a show mainly concerned with death and comedy, black humour played its part; a bell-ringer with no hands, a deceased saint with her boobs on a platter, and a nun with a tv-signal clarifying brain tumour all feature. That said Hasler is also unafraid of confronting death, religion and love head-on. There are plenty of references to philosophy in the piece (come on, the imaginary sibling is called Nietzche!) but not in a way which is exclusive to the less academically minded.
Hasler has rendered the religious characters in the play with great gentleness; the nuns are kind-hearted women, sheltered from the world by prayer times and a blanket of khaki Battenberg cake! Even God, or the ‘bugger upstairs’ as one character calls him, is depicted as a benevolent parent who just wants His children to have fun. The show was funny without being offensive, crude or irreverent – I was impressed that Hasler credits the audience with enough maturity not to go for the easy laughs about the frigidity of nuns!
Not all the inhabitants of the nunnery are naive, and their reasons for being nuns are as varied as the counties they were reared in. Just like the average audience member the characters have true depth. One of the stand-out features of this show is the fact the characters are laugh out loud funny without being one-dimensional slap-stick comedy props.
Adults playing children and men playing women has been the recipe for laughter for centuries; but the way in which Hasler has used these methods to discuss philosophy make this an altogether different performance to the standard ‘comedy about nuns’ show you might be expecting.
The show is part of the Camden Fringe Festival with a running time of 1 hour dead. It runs til Saturday 24th at the CamdenPeople’s Theatre. They are touring this Autumn, so catch them if you can!