Agnes of God review by Jennifer Paragreen
Sunshine Community Theatre has now reverted to its previous name of Powderkeg Players and really hit the ground running with their impressive staging of Agnes of God.
This is a drama from the early 1980s notionally based on a true story. It is about a novice accused of murdering her newborn baby. A psychiatrist is called to the convent to access whether Sister Agnes is mentally fit to stand trial while the Mother Superior seems determined to follow her own agenda.
These are the only characters in the play and fortunately Powderkeg has secured three very talented actors to take on the challenge.
The largest role is that of the psychiatrist, Dr Martha Livingstone who is on stage and in focus for all but a couple of scenes when the two sisters act out incidents from the past. Marti Ibrahim provides an accomplished performance as she breaks through the fourth wall to act as a narrator and confessing her professional conflicts, and in her interactions with the nuns, frustrated at the Mother Superior’s blocking tactics and moving between scepticism and concern in her dealings with Sister Agnes.
Veronica Hannebery’s resonant voice was employed to good effect as Sister Miriam Ruth, the Mother Superior of the convent. At first she seems deliberately obstructive, then she appears in awe of Agnes’ holiness / other worldliness (or is that just an act?). Perhaps it was actually Miriam Ruth who killed the baby? There is so much suspense and intrigue until she finally reveals what could be a plausible motivation for her actions.
As the eponymous Agnes, Gemma Francis had the difficult task of melding the supposed religiosity and naïvety of the character into something believable. It is only as we get deep into the play that we learn that Agnes’ abusive mother has completely undermined her self confidence and kept her locked away from the world and that Sister Miriam has systematically sustained her ignorance of the outside world and, particularly, sexual matters.
Director, Drew Mason, has kept a firm hand on the ebb and flow of the dialogue with pacing closely related to characterisation, punctuated by some very heated argumentative explosions.
The scene was set with an all black colour scheme and three separate panels denoting a reception room, neutral territory and Sister Agnes’ bedroom. The sparse furniture confirmed the monastic setting and intelligent lighting changes guided audience focus efficiently.
The singing was perhaps not quite as ethereal as the script would suggest and Miriam Ruth’s exposed forearms were inappropriate but the stigmata blood was very well controlled and the total package made for a riveting and intense theatrical experience.
And we never do learn either the identity of the father or even the sex of the baby.
The final performance of Agnes of God was on 12 May.
Powderkeg Players’ next theatrical endeavour will be a brief season of two plays which they intend to take on the one act play festival circuit. Slut by Patricia Cornelius and Adam and Eve by Donna Price will be staged at Dempster Park Hall in North Sunshine on 29th & 30th June.
In October Powderkeg will present David Williamson’s A Conversation, from his trilogy of plays using community conferencing where an offender and his victim discuss the perpetrator’s actions and attempt to find a resolution.