BWW Review: INCORRUPTIBLE at Domain Theatre, Marion Cultural Centre

BWW Review: INCORRUPTIBLE at Domain Theatre, Marion Cultural CentreReviewed by Barry Lenny, Thursday 3rd May 2018.

Written by Michael Hollinger in 1996, and directed by Lesley Reed, Galleon Theatre Company is presenting the very funny farce, Incorruptible: A Dark Comedy about the Dark Ages, which shows that every man has his price, even the holy men of a small French monastery.

The monastery is in Priseaux, France, and, in 1250 AD, it has seen better days. The bones of St. Foy no longer attract pilgrims as she has not had a single miracle attributed to her in many years. The town is also suffering, with the river having recently flooded, and the chandler's shop burnt to the ground. Poverty is everywhere, particularly in the monastery, which is in serious need of repairs.

Charles, the abbot of Priseaux, and his second-in-command, Brother Martin, along with the two novices, Brothers Felix and Olf, are at their wits end until a one-eyed minstrel named Jack offers them a very dodgy solution.

The Roman Catholic Church claims that the bodies of some saints are incorruptible, meaning that they do not decay, as do the bodies of ordinary people. They claim that they are supernaturally persevered, quoting Psalm 16:10. The few that are around today, of course, do not bear close inspection, as any decay that does occur is hidden with some careful touching up of exposed parts, such as the addition of a wax facemask, or hand coverings. Anything else, hidden beneath a shroud, is easily faked. The Church has always, and still does, rely on the effectiveness of holy relics, corpses, statues, beads, not forgetting the wine and wafer, and other physical objects, as a means to convince its followers that the bible is really the word of a deity by offering these physical 'proofs', albeit that book having been written entirely by human beings, translated, retranslated, edited, and tampered with, to suit the order of the day and the ruling powers.

That becomes important knowledge, as this black comedy progresses and the monks attempt to lure the Pope to visit them and rekindle their financial income. To get him there, they need a miracle, and one performed by an incorruptible is right at the pinnacle of attractions.

Incidentally, Sainte Foy, or Foi, meaning Saint Faith, really existed. She was a 13-year-old girl who was martyred in the fourth century, and she is still popular in Europe and Latin America. The Abbey Church of Sainte Foy, the building of which was begun in the eighth century, and which houses her remains, is in Conques, in the Occitanie region of France. The current building has a world heritage listing.

First-time director, Lesley Reed, has cast two every experienced actors, and Galleon favourites, Peter Davies and Andrew Clark, in the key roles of Abbott Charles and Brother Martin, with Andy Steuart making his first appearance with the company as the disreputable Jack, who they force to join them as Brother Norbert for the duration of their macabre enterprise. Steuart brings a wealth of experience from working with other Adelaide companies. These three are the primary characters in the play and they have been well cast in this production.

Davies, Clarke, and Steuart create some fascinating and well-developed characters and, most importantly, work extremely well together as the unholy trinity.

Charles is questioning and losing his faith, with all of the angst that goes with that, while the pragmatic Martin is an opportunistic cynic. They make an unlikely pair of monks, their relationship providing a lot of the humour in this play. Whilst Martin adopts Jack's ideas with glee at the thought of putting the Abby back on the map, Charles goes along with it, but tries to fool himself that it has little or nothing to do with him. Even Jack, whose initial plan starts the whole process, is aghast at how everything seems to get out of hand, especially at the ultimate task imposed on him by the Brothers.

Matthew Chapman had me wondering for a while, with what seemed to be an attempt to give Brother Olf an unusual affectation in his speech, with a hint of Derek Nimmo about it. It eventually sank in that Brother Olf is slow-witted, which the high-pitched voice did not convey. A slow and low delivery might have been more effective, but one became accustomed to it.

Josh van't Padje played Brother Felix, a young monk trying hard to be spiritual, but still very much attached to the ways of the outside world, particularly female company of the closest kind. He offers a well-rounded characterisation in the role.

Maxine Grubel plays a belligerent and tight-fisted peasant, who also happens to be the mother of Marie, the almost-wife of Jack. Grubel gives us an hilarious character, as wily as a fox, who is unhampered by ethics, happily acting as her daughter's pimp.

Marie, Jack's dancer and sort-of wife, full-time prostitute, and reluctant part-time incorruptible, is played by Ashley Penny in an energetic performance, with some fine song and dance moves and a great feel for comedy.

Lindy LeCornu plays Agatha, Abbess of Bernay, and the overly competitive sister of Charles. Her Abbess is not somebody whom you would want to cross, or even meet up a dark alley. LeCornu creates a nicely scary character who lives up to everything said about her by Charles before she makes her first appearance.

The set, by Kym Clayton and Britany Daw, is very effective, the costumes by Trisha Graham, Fran Hardie, and Sally Putnam are appropriate to the era, and modern musical arrangements of music from the 12th to 16th Centuries, by Kim Orchard, adds to the atmosphere.

Some lines went astray here and there, and the pace occasionally slipped, but, hopefully, this was just opening night nerves and will be remedied quickly. There are, nonetheless, plenty of laughs in this production, so pack a supper and book a table.

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From This Author Barry Lenny