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Agnes of God

A radiantly innocent young girl who sings with the voice of an angel, enthralling all who hear her, is the central character of Kucom's first production for 2008, John Pielmeier's Agnes of God, which tells the story of a novice nun who gives birth and insists that the child was the result of a virgin conception.

Made into a movie in 1985, starring Jane Fonda, Anne Bancroft and Meg Tilly, the play features Sister Agnes, a young and ignorant novice, molested by her mother as a child, who sings in an ethereal voice and was impregnated by an unknown entity.  When the baby is found dead in a wastepaper basket, a psychiatrist appointed by the Court must determine if Agnes is insane or not.  But, as the Mother Superior of the convent points out, Agnes is not the typical person, or even the typical nun.  She seems almost incredibly naive, and perhaps she really is a holy innocent, close to God in a way more more appropriate to the Middle Ages than today.  Or is she merely insane?  The psychiatrist, a lapsed Catholic with grievances against the Church, is determined to probe deep to find out, while the Mother Superior, in desperate need of a focus for her shaky faith, is equally determined that Sister Agnes' simple piety will not be destroyed.

Kucom's production of Agnes of God, directed by Jim Kelly, opened on Friday 29 February and will run Wednesdays, Fridays and Saturdays until 15 March.


An Act of God

Ever wondered what an angel would soung like? Or what brand of cigarettes a saint would smoke? Caroline Graham took a sneak peek at Kucom Theatre's Agnes of God

'Well what do you think?' the Mother Superior asks viciously, not far into the play. 'Is she totally bananas or merely slightly off-centre? Or maybe she's perfectly sane and just a very good liar.' And, if it's possible, it seems the audience is even more hell - or heaven - bent on finding out the answer to her question than the three characters in Jim Kelly's production of Agnes of God.

Kucom Theatre's latest work tells the unlikely and challenging story of a young novice who has apparently given birth to a child while living in the convent - a child who was found strangled in a wastepaper basket not long after the birth. Agnes, the novice played by Letitia O'Brien, has completely blocked the incident from her mind, hampering the efforts of a court appointed psychiatrist, played by Donna Priddle, to determine whether Agnes is legally sane. The Mother Superior of the convent (Kath Ward) is naturally very protective of Agnes and fiercely clings to her belief in Agnes' innocence.

And so unfolds the mystery of Agnes' plight; a thrilling journey the audience willingly finds itself drawn into. Both the psychiatrist and the Mother Superior face unrelenting challenges to their doubts and beliefs during the course of the play, while Agnes gradually reveals her history and the events that finally lead them all to an unpredictable climax.

While the play is obviously a demanding piece of theatre, the three actresses rise to the task with surprising ease and skill, giving the characters strength and depth and expertly carrying the dark tale forward. Young O'Brien's performance is particularly impressive; for an actress so young her convincing portrayal strikes a skilful and delicate balance between the infallible innocent and the tainted victim of circumstance.

This production is more than a whodunit - though it will leave you on the edge of your seat. For some, parts of the play will be a trip down memory lane to their Catholic school days (they'll particularly like the exchange about what cigarettes the saints would smoke) and, more importantly, it also serves as an, albeit dark, exploration of the place of faith and miracles in our lives.

Review: The Daily Mercury, Thursday, 28 February 2008






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