site search by freefind advanced

 Connecting professional and amateur theatre in Newbury, West Berkshire and beyond

Boundary Players - Bonaventure

22nd to 26th October 2002.

From the Newbury Weekly News.

A question of faith

'BONAVENTURE', performed by Boundary Players, at the William Penney Theatre, AWE Aldermaston, from Tuesday, October 22 to Saturday, October 26

Bonaventure is set in 1947 in the convent of Our Lady of Rheims, a nursing order near Norwich. The play follows Sister Mary Bonaventure and her plight to clear the name of Sarat Cahn, a young artist convicted of murdering her brother.

Sarat and her two officer chaperones, Melling and Pierce, are forced by severe flooding to take refuge at the convent, delaying Sarat's seemingly inevitable trip to the gallows. Bonaventure and Sarat meet and the nun's overwhelming certainty of the girl's innocence kick-starts the narrative and the play begins to unfold.

The actors coped well with an overly-verbose and relatively uneventful first act as the scene was set. Characters came, were introduced to the audience and then passed the baton on. Mary Robinson's direction, solid and deliberate throughout, might have benefited from a little more pace and gusto at points such as this.

The portrayal of Willy Pentridge by Clive Lewington was a highlight. A simple-minded local with a penchant for sweets, Willy brought humour, life, depth and realism to the stage in a very well-thought-out performance. The set and costumes convincingly conveyed the
scenario, although the nuns' wimples - authentic I'm sure - tended to dwarf the actors' expressions.

In act two, set in Bonaventure's bedroom, we see the sister begin to methodically unravel the murder and develop her relationship with Sarat. This is the drive of the narrative, but beneath this veneer there are larger themes to hand as Bonaventure questions her own identity and with it her religion.

Pat Archer's performance as Bonaventure was understated and subtle, dealing well with this demanding role. Other notable performances were Alice Grundy's well-timed and humorous Sister Josephine and Mary Ann Mendum as Sarat who coped exceptionally well considering that she'd played Pierce on the previous three nights.

We are led into the final scene of act three knowing that the sister has a play-changing revelation to announce. As it built to a crescendo the audience's excitement was tangible and the actors performed with more vigour and agitation. Although the end verged on farce, where underplaying may have had more impact, the audience left the performance entertained.