Review Roundup: Tricycle Theatre's ONCE A CATHOLIC
Actress and director Kathy Burke has come up with a cast for her revamp of playwright Mary O'Malley's 1977 play ONCE A CATHOLIC. Burke directs the production at theTricycle Theatre, sarring Richard Bremmer, Calum Callaghan, Sean Campion, Clare Cathcart, Oliver Coopersmith, Kate Lock, Molly Logan, Amy Morgan, Katherine Rose Morley and Cecilia Noble.
The play follows a group of Catholic schoolgirls in 1957. It was first performed at the Royal Court in 1977, directed byMike Ockrent. O'Malley was the theatre's resident dramatist that year. The production then transferred to Wyndham's Theatre in the West End, where it ran for more than two years.
Let's see what the critics had to say...
Charles Spencer, Telegraph: Devout Catholics may well find the show offensive, not so much for its frequent bawdiness, but for the fact that both the nuns and the priest seem actively malign, terrifying the girls with the fear of everlasting damnation, while also appearing profoundly stupid and entirely lacking in Christian charity.
Fiona Mountford, Evening Standard: It feels like a long evening. On Paul Wills's clever frame of a set, which is richly redolent of ecclesiastical architecture, a succession of rather effortfully connected scenes at the start fails to reveal much of a through-line. Mother Basil (Clare Cathcart) and Mother Peter (Cecilia Noble, with an uncertain accent) are grotesques who play unashamedly to the gallery. They hurl themselves furiously around the school, ensuring that a Catholic shame culture settles oppressively over every hint of teenage insubordination. Tampax are banned; missing Mass is declared to be a greater sin than murdering one's wife.
Michael Coveney, Whatsonstage: One of Mary's sternest trials is a Gilbert and Sullivan singing lesson with the sinister music master Mr Emmanuelli, but there is not enough fat on the writing for Richard Bremmer to sustain the bug-eyed creepiness of his portrayal. The girls, too, seem unnecessarily ancient, ten years too old, at odds with their virginal vulnerability and sweetness in green pleated skirts and white ankle socks.
Quentin Letts, Daily Mail: There are a few moments when this Tricycle/Liverpool Royal Court co-production takes wings. The action lifts every time Sean Campion steps on stage as Father Mullarkey. He is easily embarrassed by talk of sex but, at the same time, when taking confession, he has a gossip's delight in fresh disclosure. Meanwhile, music master Mr Emanuelli (Richard Bremmer, all death-stare eyes) tries to make the girls sing. He is a kind fellow, but they cannot see this.