Drinking Habits Presented By The Centenary Theatre Group
13th May - June 3rd 2023.
Chelmer Community Theatre
A Nun-sensical cleverly executed comical convent of calamities!
Dr Gemma Regan
It’s the annual slap and tickle time at the Centenary Theatre Group with a rip-roaring farce to brighten your day and lessen your worries. Drinking Habits, written by American playwright Tom Smith, a professor at Pacific Lutheran University, gives a comical insight into an Order of naughty Nuns at a calamitous convent. With a brilliantly witty title, the Sisters of Perpetual Sewing are broke and secretly making money selling wine instead of grape juice. With the imminent risk of the Abbey of only three Nuns being closed, they also pretend they are a large group of Nuns to the higher powers of Rome by doing extra sewing.
Despite their vows of poverty and honesty, each Nun can justify their little white lies for the greater good without the need for any revelations. That is until a letter arrives from Rome, warning of the imminent arrival at the Abbey of undercover inspectors. When it coincides with the unexpected arrival of two new nuns and a priest, it causes a plethora of paranoid antics and mistaken identities.
The monastic theme is set on arrival at the Chelmer theatre with piped organ music and Nuns and Priests issuing tickets and refreshments. An altar in the bar displays the illicit bottles of five-star finest pigéage red, vintage 1956 produced by the Sisters of Perpetual Sewing (a pigéage is when the crust is pushed down into the juice.) A sinister Nun mannequin overlooks the display lest anyone is tempted to sip on Satan’s spew, which is available for purchase at the bar.
The set is well designed and constructed by the Director William McCreery-Rye and Alan Brown, with the multiple doorways necessary for a rip-roaring farce, including a closet for the Holy Robes. A central altar with a projected stained glass window and a man-sized storage chest is all you need to cause confusion when the eight characters wind their way in and out of doors, Even coming out of the closet!
The confused choreography was stunning with Nuns and Priests and Priests as Nuns entering, hiding, exiting and even kissing (can you believe it!) with split-second timing. Swap the habit for a plastic swimming cap and it could have been a glitzy Buzby Barclay production!
Each outlandish caricature was delivered with aplomb. The drunken Irish Father Chenille played by Laurie Webb had his cleverly disguised Aussie accent and was obsessed with the prim Mother Superior (Natalie Pedlar). Both of whom were not as pure as they pretended to be.
The naughty Nuns Augusta and Philomena (Julie Collins and Samantha O’Hare) were a scream, taunting and haunting the suspiciously liberal Priest (Daniel Medda), the blasphemous new Sister Mary Mary (don’t ask!) (Alizah Pompey) and the overtly pious Sister Mary (Amy Westman).
Pompey and Webb were old hands at the farcical timing, having starred in last year’s hilarious CTG production of Unnecessary Farce. The only sane character on the stage was the simple hard-working young caretaker George, played with conviction by James Sheenan in his first-ever acting role.
Aside from the comical puns, slapstick and chaotic choreography, each character sang like a chorister at impromptu times, led by the obviously talented singer Samantha O’Hare.
It was a cleverly executed comical convent of calamities worthy of the British Carry On team. You must not miss the opportunity to have a glass of Satan’s Hair Tonic and satiate your Drinking Habits at a night of fun and Nun-sense with the Centenary Theatre Group!