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Nunsense
 
The Sun
WHEN NUNS TAKE TO FUNNY HABITS
Reverence dives for cover as Brides of Christ wax comical
By Sherry Siebel

Ever since Sally Field laced on roller skates to prevent her from floating up in the air where everyone could observe the bloomers exclusively worn by Brides of Christ, nuns have been funny. Perhaps something about their not seeming to possess ears, their often stereotypical air of unimpeachable gullibility or their common propensity for looking like so many sacks of potatoes trussed up with lengths of rope may also have something to do with it. Monks with their horribly emasculating tonsures are much too pathetic to be made fun of, poor chaps, but nuns, who conjure up images of formidable phalanxes of dominatrix-like Mother Superiors, ditzy sisters one genuflection away from the madhouse, and Nana Mouskouri-wannabes in habits who brandish acoustic guitars and Hush Puppies Jesus sandals; are acceptably fair game. Hence the massive success which is Nunsense, one of off-Broadway's longest-running musicals which has been sweeping the Catholic world by storm. Every pew's been sold out so far for The Actors Studio Bangsar's current production which gleefully features a quintet of burlesque nuns, who indulge in instances of pontiff impersonations and glue-sniffing.

You've probably got to be at least of some Christian denomination for this. Otherwise you probably won't enjoy or even understand the musical comedy's frequent ecclesiastical jokes at God's expense about holy water and immaculate conceptions and things like that. But they're so mild, you can rest assured that even He won't turn a divine hair (which can't be said about a website I just encountered where you get to dress up a crucified Jesus paper doll-style with items of clothing as blasphemously ridiculous as hula skirts, coconut shell brassieres and Elton John sunglasses). But although Gardner & Wife have faintly Malaysianised the musical by sending the Little Sisters of Hoboken to the spuriously-named Kampong Pandan Catholic School, and you get that firecracker of an actress, Mary George as Sister Robert Anne, spouting some terribly fierce Tamil to the delight of all present, plus a Reverend Mother with a penchant for pink feather boas and lashings of exhibitionism, the comedy is not a whole lot more than a mish-mash of song 'n dance and tip 'n tap, with deliberately flaccid bits of sexual humour thrown in for that oh-so-necessary allusion to celibacy. Nunsense is a sugary candyfloss confection, albeit festooned with rosaries and the odd Biblical verse. But it's a musical, so what do you expect?

Zoë Christian redeems herself big-time with her role as Sister Mary Leo; a novice who just wants to dance and appears Carmen Miranda-like halfway through the show with a very creative headdress made of bananas, pineapples and persimmons. But her greatest moment is when she pops up from under a table as the hairiest, ugliest and most vulgar nun ever - she wears a mask - who accosts her sisters most foully from beneath her pristine wimple. It's classic. Shanthini Venugopal, too, puts in a robust and most realistic performance as the overweight Reverend Mother who sticks her nose into a can of Cow Gum and ends up as stoned as a hippie. The sight of this alone is worth the price of admission.