Reviewed by Matt Forrest
Opening Night verdict ⭐️⭐️⭐️1/2
Writer Tim Foley’s new play, Electric Rosary had quite the inception, back in 2017 it won the Bruntwood Prize Judge’s Award and now it arrives at the Royal Exchange Theatre for a three-week run. This sci-fi comedy promises something original and something we had no idea we needed in our lives till now, nuns and robots sharing the stage for the first time!
Set in the dilapidated grounds of St Grace’s convent, a depleted troop of nuns are struggling to keep the convent afloat. Whilst the recent passing of the mother superior has left the nuns in a state of flux as to who will lead them through these are turbulent times. In addition, the convent had set up strong ties with a missionary in Ecuador which all the nuns have dreamt about visiting, however with funds so low this seems highly unlikely.
With Easter approaching acting mother superior, Elizabeth (Jo Mousley) may have a solution to their problems in the guise of a council funded robot, Sister Mary (Breffni Holahan). Whilst young nun Theresa ( Saroja-Lily Ratnavel) is made up with android Mary, older nuns, Phillippa (Suzette Llwellyn) and Constance (Olwen May) are more sceptical.
The views of the nuns seemingly represent their views of the outside world in general, as the use of robots as workers is commonplace in this world, with some members of the public protesting about the “reapers” as they are called, and as the protests head closer to the convent what will the nuns do about it, and just how will they solve a problem like Mary?
This is a bold, unique at times hilarious production, with some fantastic performances, and razor-sharp script. However, the further you dive into the narrative the darker it becomes, exploring themes such as tolerance, the over reliance on artificial intelligence, and other factors that divide us.
The play opens like an extended episode of Victoria Wood’s classic sitcom, Dinner Ladies, sweet, charming and hilariously funny packed full of well observed punchlines. There numerous strong comedic set pieces as Sister Mary adapts to her new environment and how it reacts to her. However, it’s the final act where the tone shifts becoming more of a thriller.
I felt that the production somewhat loses its way a little after the interval, which is a real shame, it would benefit from another edit. It does manage to get back on track though with a powerful, haunting final 30 minutes. The ensemble cast are excellent throughout: Saroja-Lily Ratnavel gives a fantastic performance, as the innocent, sweet natured Sister Theresa, displaying a gift for comedy. Breffni Holahan as Sister Mary, commands the stage, demanding your attention throughout, with a very physical performance. Olwen May is in fine form as the strong yet cynical world-beaten Sister Constance. In addition, there is a powerful performance from Yandass Ndlovu in two very different yet pivotal roles
This is a strong showing from all six actors who all work hard throughout with each one getting their moment to shine. Electric Rosary despite some minor flaws is a hilarious, ambitious production with a great deal to say about modern times and well worth a watch.
Electric Rosary is at the Royal Exchange Theatre till the 14th May tickets available here.