After a hugely successful run in Durham last June with Hild Bede Theatre, Finola Southgate’s song-cycle turned original musical “We’ll Have Nun of It” returns to Durham this week under the leadership of newly founded theatre company, Sister Sister Productions.
The year is 1967, the place St Lidwina’s School for Girls. We follow the lives of four boarding students as they try to navigate their adolescence whilst growing up in a convent school. Based on personal experiences, Finola has composed and crafted an utterly original piece of theatre. The story centers around the age-old difficulties of growing-up in all the many ways you can, from rebellions and acts of defiance to desperate attempts just to fit in. However, the production does not simply rest above the safety net of a tried and tested plot structure, as it also seeks to tackle stories of Irish immigration, faith, homosexuality and sisterhood.
The inclusion ofmusic, directed by Honor Halford-Macleod, is what truly brings it to life. With a mix of accompanied and a cappella pieces, variety and engagement is never an issue in this piece. There have also been significant additions to the script and score since its last run, so that there is guaranteed to be something new even for those who have seen it before.
The “outstandingly talented actresses” (Palatinate), however, are all reprising their same roles: Lily Spillane plays Eliza, Bella Elwes as Mary, Izzy Mackie as Stella and Rose Galbraith as Bernie. Capable of moving seamlessly from powerful and emotionally evocative monologues to their respective instruments, their talent is undeniable and, of course, a key element to the success of the production. Director Rosie Dart has clearly worked incredibly hard with them to ensure that Finola’s innovative concept is translated into reality.
Labelled “bold, brilliant and breath-taking” and “a triumph” by Palatinate, it seems foolish to let a second chance to see this production in Durham pass you by. Having seen it in June myself, I will certainly be paying another visit. Forget all the other phenomenal aspects of the show: it is the sense of joy at its close that leaves you addicted – thank goodness there are two performances in one day!
23rd February, 2:30 and 7:30 pm. Tickets available here.
By Elvira Parr