Sacrament – Theatre Upstairs – Review by Frank L.
Until Nov 25th
Written and performed by Leigh Douglas
This is a co-production between Theatre Upstairs and the Minerva Collective. The Collective was founded in 2015 and “develop[s] and devise[s] work that is dedicated to giving voice to unheard female stories and studying the female experience within society” and uses “performance as a platform for social commentary and change”. Leigh Douglas, the writer, is also the sole performer. Her character in the programme is without a name. She narrates a young girl’s life from the time of her first confession to when she is about twenty-six years old. As the narrator she details her family life in Ireland and her friends in college in England where she goes to study. It covers inevitably the familiar but important world of a young woman seeking love and wanting to be loved. It also details her relationship with the Roman Catholic Church and how that relationship waxes and wanes. This involves in consequence a large number of social issues.
The set is simple with a large rectangular structure on one side of the stage and a small kneeler stand at the front. The floor is made of polished pine, the sort of floor you might see in a church.
The narrator, dressed in a simple white frock, is the principal character whose innermost feelings are revealed. In addition Douglas has a myriad of other characters to portray which include the father and mother, the granny, a parish priest and a collection of friends both male and female from home and from college. Douglas admirably manages to differentiate between this large number of individuals.
However, the play lasts well over an hour and a quarter. It is a major challenge for any solo actor to retain an audience’s concentration for a period longer than an hour. The comic moments are rare and are primarily restricted to the foibles of the older members of the family and neighbours at home in Ireland. A little more humour would have helped in the university years in England where most of the action takes place.
As one of the objectives of the Minerva Collective is to implement social change its work will necessarily be polemical. In order for the message to reach the widest possible audience great care needs to be given to whom the audience is and how they can be persuaded to alter their long-held views. The message she seeks to make will travel further if it was briefer and more likely to convert if more humour was employed. That said, Douglas undoubtedly has talent and is a serious and committed performer.
Leigh Douglas / WRITER + CAST
Fiona Kingwill / DIRECTOR
Naomi Faughan / SET DESIGN
Martha Godfrey / LIGHTING DESIGN
Amy Warren / MOVEMENT
Emma Hanley / PRODUCER