Tweetingit 4.5 ****/* – The remaining half a star was only not given because to err is human, perfection divine.
Theatre 503, located above The Latchmere Pub on Battersea Park Road, is currently home to We Wait In Joyful Hope. The play centres around the actions of Bernie D’Amato (Maggie McCarthy), an elderly nun in a New Jersey slum, fighting off a megalomaniac property developer, whose machinations are represented by the slimy Father Grady (James Tucker) looking to take away housing for the vulnerable and turn it into something more profitable, aided only by a 16-year-old aspiring singer, Felicia (Anita-Joy Uwajeh) and an old friend and former fellow nun, Joanne (Deirdra Morris)
Brian Mullin, selected from over 800 applicants to join the writer-in residence scheme at 503 and his debut production is nothing short of excellent. An intimate theatre houses a minimalist production, but at no point does it feel congested, and whilst the characters are archetypal representations of varying perspectives, each is well-rounded and has depth.
Each aspect of the play complimented and augmented the others: the writing was heartwarming, inspiring but never sanctimonious; the staging was all but flawless; the acting was generally of a remarkable standard (particularly the arc displayed by teenage rebel Felicia, who was fantastically brought to life by Anita-Joy Uwajeh. One particular ferocious outburst made several audience members jump. The only minor gripes are some accent displacement issues with Joanne and Father Grady, with more than a touch of Mrs. Doyle from Father Ted about Joanne.
The small cast is perfectly used to populate the stage and give the impression of a much larger world, with Bernie, Joanne, and Grady talking about their experiences abroad and how they felt compelled to return home.
The story features genuine and insightful representation of the human heart, faith and divinity in the everyday that transcends nation and background, briefly threatening to thaw my frozen heart in the process. The depth of the plot is effectively grounded by dark humour and genuine laugh-out-loud moments, with references from the Jesuits to the Kardashians, and Milton to marijuana. Unafraid to cater to a mainstream audience, the dialogue combines literary, cultural and intellectual references to culminate in an original and appealing cocktail. One particular phrase stuck out for me:
“My God’s out there. That’s why I go out in that van. Each night I sit behind the wheel and, believe me, I pray. But with the engine running and the headlights on. Sharp. Cutting through the darkness.”
Writer: Brian Mullin
Director: Lisa Cagnacci
Assistant Director: Alex Rand
Designer: Kat Heath
Assistant Designer: Lily O’Hara
Lighting Designer: Sally Ferguson
Booking until 11 June
Tickets available at: https://theatre503.com/whats-on/we-wait-in-joyful-hope