RUN TO THE NUNS – THE MUSICAL at the Riverside Studios
This show is presented as work-in-progress
“a joy to witness, and anyone seeing this show will be wanting to follow its course, swept along by the energy and camaraderie of the company”
When Hamlet cursed Ophelia, commanding her to “get thee to a nunnery”, he almost certainly didn’t have in mind ‘Cressida’s Convent’ – the fictional nunnery by the sea. A shame really. It could actually have been Ophelia’s salvation. Judging by the teasing glimpses we get during the new musical, “Run to the Nuns”, this somewhat unconventional retreat is the perfect getaway. A cross between a sexual health clinic and holiday resort, it promises paradise, but not in the way your typical sister would expect. Chastity? No thanks! Silence? You’ll be lucky! The only vow required, it seems, is to have as much fun as possible during your stay.
Billed as a Queer Musical, it is far more interesting than that. It doesn’t need the label. Rooted in feminism it even transcends, without renouncing, that classification with its self-deprecatory style and comic turns of phrase. Jenette Meehan’s character driven writing is steeped in affection for its targets, which simultaneously softens and sharpens the satire. Rosa Lucaks’ compositions, performed by the spirited bunch of actor musicians throughout, are catchy and pared back enough to allow the sharp-witted lyrics to cut through. (It is unclear whether Meehan or Lucaks are to be credited for the lyrics, or whether a collaboration).
The convent/clinic/retreat/ (delete as applicable) is run by ‘Doc’ (Estelle Homerstone) and her eccentric sidekick ‘Sage’ (Cat Thomas), aided by resident gynaecologist ‘Kat’ (Dani Croston) and a regular troupe of ‘sisters’ (or rather siblings). The idyllic, albeit mismanaged, lifestyle is thrown into jeopardy by Kat’s former lover, ‘Orlagh’ (Eve Pereira), who arrives bringing both the ‘romantic subplot’ and the ‘deus ex machina’. Musicians Bettine Solf and Inés Ruiz, doubling as patients and/or siblings, complement and complete the family.
As part of the Bitesize Festival at Riverside Studios, “Run to the Nuns” epitomises the spirit and objectives of the project. Designed to allow producers, writers, directors, musicians, comedians, and cabaret artists to test new work, it has attracted a varied roster of performances across the genres. The shows are, by default, in their early stages. Yes, they might be under scrutiny, but nobody is judging. Audiences are encouraged to get into the festival spirit and enjoy (and there is plenty to enjoy throughout the month); but feedback is always welcome, and sought.
Despite a run on the Brighton Fringe earlier in the year, “Run to the Nuns” is evidently still a work-in-progress, with its budgetary and time constraints clearly showing. Yet these limitations are thrown into focus purely by the light that bounces off the jewel this show can be carved into. The story needs to be fleshed out, and undoubtedly more musical numbers are in the pipeline. The delightfully idiosyncratic characters could do with a bit of extra company. This is what the Bitesize Festival is all about. It is a joy to witness, and anyone seeing this show will be wanting to follow its course, swept along by the energy and camaraderie of the company. “Run to the Nuns”? Producers out there – the race starts here. But be quick.
Reviewed on 16th July 2023
by Jonathan Evans
Previously reviewed at this venue: