Catholic Schoolgirls by Casey Kurtti,directed by Ian Jeffrey Walker. The Acting Company at The Hawk Theatre, Narrabundah College 8.00 pm April 30 - May 4, 1996.
The Acting Company provides opportunities for young people, post-secondary, to practise the craft of theatre. Quality production values are important, on stage and backstage, since many use this experience towards furthering their careers. The ensemble playing, neat lighting and precise timing that this script requires were all in place in this production.
The script is entertaining, and gave each of the actors - Louise Gaunson, Estelle Muspratt, Bridget Rainey and Rohini Sharma - the chance to show a developing childhood character and a middle-aged teaching sister in a Catholic Primary / Junior High school in New York. In this society the social division between Jews and Catholics is represented symbolically: Jews attend public schools; Catholics attend Catholic schools. Philosophically, the central issue for the girls is whether or not Jesus was a Jew.
Perhaps this production might have emphasised the darker ironies of the religious institution in which the nun's word is the Word of God, while sarcasm is the common teaching tool and obsequious thanks are given to the parents who provide the most financial support. However the script really wouldn't support too much weight. The regularly spaced one-liners keep us too amused. Only the description by Colleen, which I thought Louise Gaunson did very well, of the humiliation of her first menstruation, had a solid impact. The ending, in which Elizabeth (Rohini Sharma) explains that the play is just her half-forgotten memories stimulated by a dream, undercuts, I think, the possibility of exploring the harsh reality of the guilt engendered in such a prejudicial education.
The Acting Company has turned a rather too thin script into a successful production exercise, but I would like to see these often very good actors given greater challenges.
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