BWW REVIEW: FOLK Sees The Uniting Power Of Music Draw Three Unlikely Friends Together For A Heartwarming Tale of Compassion And Companionship
Friday 10th May 2019, 8:15pm, Ensemble Theatre
Presented with heart and humour, FOLK Is a delightful expression of the power of music to bring people together. Director Terence O'Connell brings Tom Wells' intimate 90-minute play with music to the Ensemble stage, evoking memories of shared musical experiences and caring nuns with a honest expression of the good side of humanity.
Set near the East Yorkshire town of Hull, Irish Sister Winnie (Genevieve Lemon) and best friend Stephen's (Gerard Carroll) Friday night Folk session is rudely interrupted by a muddy brick through the front window. Whilst many would be quickly on to the police and ready to give the delinquent brick thrower a stern beratement or more, Sister Winnie's Christian values have her seeking out the 15 year old Kayleigh's (Libby Asciak) reason for the vandalism, inviting her in for a cup of tea despite the timid Stephen's protest that the teen should not be trusted. For all of Sister Winnie's feisty irreverence and bad habits, she is a true Bride of Christ and considers her diocese owned home as a refuge for anyone who needs it, in this case the socially inept Stephen and the not-that-bright high school dropout Kayleigh. As they find a common bond of Irish Folk music, Sister Winnie concocts a plan to turn their love of ballads, airs and reels into a more public event, while friendships solidify, walls break down and the three very different people come to find that the family you find is sometimes more important than blood or law.
Set and Costume designer Hugh O'Connor presents a detailed expression of the front room of Sister Winnie's two-story home. Religious paintings sit atop floral wallpaper, a cutesy cross stitch "welcome" cushion is nestled amongst the assortment on the sofa and a multitude of statues of Saints stand watch from the sideboard and coffee tables. Sister Winnie is presented with the conservative constraint of a contemporary nun dressed in civvies as the days of nuns in black habits are long gone. Best friend, sensitive steel worker Stephen is presented with a visual simplicity of one that spends his life either at work, with Sister Winnie or home looking after his elderly father. The greatest development comes in the form of Kayleigh's style, from appearance of tough street savvy hoodlum in black track suit to a more honest representation of the misfit child who only wanted someone to acknowledge her existence.
Woven with live renditions of traditional Irish folk songs, more contemporary pieces made famous by pop covers and an original work by Gerard Carroll, written specifically for this production, this is a delightful play that works in a good balance of mystery along with believable honest expression. Having attended an all-girls catholic school which still had nun's attached to the school, Genevieve Lemon's portrayal of Sister Winnie felt very authentic as she triggered memories of mischievous nuns realistically aware of the world but still devoted to Christ and expressing the compassion and care one should expect from the church. Lemon ensures that Sister Winnie is warm and endearing, making the twist in the plot even more poignant. Libby Asciak captures the false bravado of a teen trying to prove something, she just isn't sure who too, and her shift to comfort with Sister Winnie and Stephen is presented with a realistic speed of a young person desperate to have a place where people want her and accept her for who she is. Stephen is a less detailed character, but Gerard Carroll makes the most of the socially inept reclusive character. He ensures that Stephen's devotion to Sister Winnie is clear as he seeks to protect her even though he knows that the gutsy nun is quite capable of looking after herself in most aspects of her life. His extension of this care to Kayleigh is also heartwarming as he opens up to the new addition to their music gathering.
In a world of dark and depressing stories, whilst FOLK does hold its own secrets, it is ultimately a delightful piece that tugs at the heartstrings. Whether you enjoy Irish Folk music, stories of friendship, second chances and finding your tribe, the delightfully funny FOLK is worth catching.
Photos: Phil Erbacher