A Sister Act to be Proud Of I have watched BATS getting better and better over the years and the company's latest offering is a case in point. BATS has produced a sparking performance which could give many a professional company a run for its money.
Sister Act has a daft storyline on which are hung some rousing song and dance numbers and some quite touching ideas.
Basically, Deloris Van Cartier has to go into hiding from Curtis, her gangster boyfriend, and the best place that the police, led by ‘Sweaty Eddie’, can think of to hide her before she testifies against him is in a convent, because, aside from being female, Deloris is about the least nun-like person you could meet. Deloris dreams of being a singer, and sing and dance she must.
The choir of nuns becomes her pet project and, though the nuns are shocked but thrilled by the new nun ‘visiting from a progressive order,’ she transforms them into the funkiest convent choir imaginable.
The story is set in the 1970s so there are disco beats and a disco ball, and the music draws huge congregations who look set to save the convent from financial ruin. This was what Mother Superior was praying for, but she did not expect her prayers to be answered in such an outlandish way. It is actually an affectionate take on convent life rather than one that pokes fun at it.
While Mother Superior struggles with the new turn of events – she had, after all, never got over the folk mass of ’67 – the publicity alerts Curtis to Deloris’s whereabouts and he and his henchmen break in to the convent which allows for some hugely enjoyable chase scenes and the chance for Sweaty Eddie to prove he is indeed worthy of Deloris. It also allows Deloris and Mother Superior to work out what is truly valuable in life.
It’s daft but it is all great fun and BATS give it their all. Director and choreographer Martyn Knight hasdrawn out some outstanding performances from the women, particularly from Louise Gains as Deloris, Jade Hollingshead as Sister Mary Robert, and Sally Manning as Mother Superior, while among the men, Paul Morris has a superb voice (and a mean manner) as Curtis, and Alasdair Beddow as Eddie, while not quite matching Paul’s voice, can move with the best of them. My favourites, though, were actually the three henchmen, TJ (Max Harwood in his first adult BATS production), Joey (Gavin Brooker) and Pablo (Liam Brelsforth) who milked every bit of humour from the parts and sang and danced well to boot.
Everyone in the company though, should be praised for their abilities and attention to detail. I often watched the ensemble when they were not centre stage and never saw anyone who was not in character. The music, under direction from Rachel Glover, was of a high standard, the lighting, sound, costumes and props were excellent and the set was extraordinary, given this was an amateur production.
I gather it was hard to fit it on the stage and it was ambitious certainly, which led to the occasional problem moving it, but it looked to all intents and purposes like the real thing. Fantastic.