For a smallish place Jersey is spoilt for choice when it comes to the arts. Guessing at the reasons I imagine that relative prosperity and more spare time to devote to creativity are two of them. The big guns of the theatre are the JADC and the Green Room Club, but this week I was tempted along to see the Arts Centre Theatre group. No idle luvvies these but a proper cross section of the Island’s community. Their productions are all the more interesting for it though naturally lacking in the overall quality and polish that you’d expect from a larger or more professional outfit.
And I went not once but twice, to see the same production! The director’s cunning ploy to use two different casts on alternate nights left me and a few others curious to see what ‘the second lot’ made of the play we’d just enjoyed. The play is set in 1947 Norfolk in a nursing convent wherein are trapped the cast by a flash flood. It’s a good, old-fashioned but solid piece of theatre that sees a young nun determined to spring a woman heading for the gallows so convinced is she of her innocence. The plot is straightforward and even my brain can follow it. I’m more interested in how the various cast members deal with the characterisation.
But is it a sin to fancy a young nun? Both Sister Mary Bonaventures, Sian Jones and Fiona Marchant, are far too attractive. This was presumable director Jason Kenyon’s casting with the main character having an inner battle knowing her sworn spiritual vows do not allow for thoughts and actions that she knows are right and for the best. In the final reckoning she breaks away from convention proving Sarat Carn’s innocence and the wicked doctor, the real murderer, throws himself from the tower to avoid the noose.
Both Sarat Carns, Sarah Tomkins and Kaye Nicholson-Horn gave powerful performances as the woman heading for the gallows and determined to hold her head high to the end. The latter actress let it all out on Saturday night nearly knocking feisty Nurse Phillips into the front row of the audience! The other stand-out performances were from Rob Hill and Isidro Da Mata, both playing the dim-witted and borderline dangerous Willy excellently.
I loved the occasional stumbling over words, props dropped on the floor, matches that wouldn’t light. That’s what happens in real life isn’t it? One criticism – one strained to hear some of the words. Mr Director – sit in the auditorium and get the more softly spoken to project up to you. Thoroughly enjoyable, great value and a pity the audience wasn’t somewhat bigger.