Once a Catholic The Tricycle Theatre & Royal Court Liverpool
Mary O’Malley’s play is spot on in its resurrection of an era (1950s) where the Catholic church ruled the lives of their congregation and the schools, and this so-called comedy is so near the truth it is prompts fear rather than hilarity.
Mother Peter, played by Cecilia Noble, took a sadistic delight in instructing her pupils on the horrors of limbo, purgatory and hellfire while preparing them for their O-Levels.
The humiliation which Mary Mooney (Molly Logan) suffered at the hands of the nun for numerous misdemeanours was shameful.
Mother Basil (Clare Cathcart) and Mother Thomas Aquinas (Kate Lock) also had the same unpleasant attributes as Mother Peter with only Mr Emmanuelli (Richard Bremmer), the singing teacher, less repressed.
Unpleasant classrooms can be lightened somewhat by friends.
Mary Mooney had Mary McGinty (Amy Morgan) and Mary Gallagher (Katherine Rose Morley) to lighten her load, both somewhat rebellious of the nun’s teachings, and want to lead her astray, especially where boys were concerned.
Derek (Calum Callaghan) and Cuthbert (Oliver Coopersmith) were the token boyfriends.
Derek, a Teddy Boy come good-for-nothing, and Oliver, a posh university graduate, were the devils incarnate, enticing the girls to forgo their Catholic ways and all they have been taught.
But, as the saying goes, once a Catholic always a Catholic. Or do they change?
This play was very slick and fast.
The monologues were done at a rapid pace and pupil learning done by repetition, especially when it came to recitation of prayers, rosary and catechism.
Father Mullarkey (Sean Campion) saw to it that the girls knew their stuff and was equally insistent on the repentance of their sins, especially the ‘mortal ‘ones.
So good were the cast in their portrayal of their various characters one almost felt part of the class they were instructing, and heaven forbid if you erred.
Directed by Kathy Burke it is obvious her experience at the hands of nuns in a Convent School helped her with this play.
Thankfully, one knows these days are long gone – but has the next generation fared any better with a new enlightened approach?