FRINGE 2013: Theatre – Agnes of God – Holden Street – 3K

Following the death of a baby, born to a novice nun in a convent, Dr Martha Livingstone (Nicole Rutty) is brought in by the court to ascertain whether young Sister Agnes (Michaela Burger), who claims to have no knowledge of having born the child, is sane and should face charges of murder. Agnes is a shy, frightened and pious girl, who spends most of her time singing beautiful, ethereal hymns which Dr Livingstone finds peculiarly enchanting. The Mother Superior of the convent, Miriam Ruth (Kathy Fisher), who is also obsessed with Agnes’ singing, is convinced of her innocence, with regards to both the death of the baby and life in general. She and Livingstone clash as their opposing views of faith, life, sanity and science are brought to the forefront by Agnes’ story.

Burger is the standout performer as Agnes. She is believably innocent and disturbed and her singing voice never wavers, providing an aptly angelic sound to enthral the other characters. In contrast to Agnes’s delicacy, the characters of Miriam Ruth and Dr Livingstone are strong and in control. Fisher creates a Mother Superior who is nicely obstinate but also caring. Livingstone is the character with potentially the greatest emotional journey in the piece but Rutty seems too dispassionate at times to truly bring this to life. There is not enough light and shade to her delivery to show the conflicting internal experience of the doctor. All three actors suffer from lack of projection at times, lighting spots are missed and lines stumbled over. However, these latter issues should tighten up as the run proceeds.

Originally written in 1979, director Shona Benson has updated several aspects of the script (use of emails, mobile phones, etc) to bring it into the 21st century. While this shows the remaining relevance of the play to today’s world, it also means that the lack of some modern practices – the use of DNA evidence, the complete disregard of doctor/patient confidentiality – jar in comparison. The set, as with most productions in this venue, is basic. Red rose petals are sprinkled across the front of the stage, providing a nicely symbolic allusion to Agnes’ destroyed innocence, with the vivid colour picking up the theme of blood running throughout the text. Lighting is used well to add mood to the more intense scenes and differentiate the memory sequences from the action in the doctor’s office.

While there are a few areas that need a touch of polish, the overall production is a good one and the play itself is interesting and will captivate many.

Kryztoff Rating: 3K

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