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Past Shows (2000-now)
 
Nunsense
 
10-16 September 2001
Day & Night
RISQUE NUNS AND THEIR SAVING GRACE
By Jacobus Raj

Nunsense is habit forming, or at least, that was one of the taglines used for Gardner & Wife's latest production, Nunsense. The production, a musical comedy, was written by Dan Goggin, produced by Chae Lian and directed by Richard Harding Gardner. As a musical comedy Nunsense wouldn't have been what it was without the efforts of musical director, Holland Jancaitis, who was flown in from the US to help out in the production.

Basically, Nunsense is all about nuns. It may have been a slightly skewed look at what goes on behind the scenes in a nunnery. The play revolves around five sisters from the Little Sisters of Kampong Pandan, who have a desperate need to raise funds to clear out their freezer. The cook somehow managed to cook up a lethal batch of tom yam that sent 52 nuns on to the afterlife. Unfortunately, the order had only enough funds to bury 48 of them and the other four bodies are being stored in the freezer.

The Mother Superior of the order, Sister Mary Regina (Shanthini Venugopal) hits upon the novel idea of staging a talent shot to raise funds for the purpose of burying the dead. The sisters who join her on stage are Sister Mary Hubert (Suzan Manen), Sister Robert Anne (Mary George), Sister Mary Amnesia (Cheah Siew Oui) and the youngest of the lot, Sister Mary Leo (Zoë Christian), who is still a nun-in-training.

Supposedly held in the Kampong Pandan Catholic School Auditorium, the production was staged as the Actors Studio Bangsar and the first glimpse of the set would have definitely seemed familiar to a lot of people. Somehow, the set was an exact replica of the set used for one of the longest-running local comedies, Pi Mai Pi Mai Tang Tu.

The nuns were a load of laughs and definitely great fun to watch, although the acoustics could have been a lot better. There were moments when the vocals to the songs that they sang were muffled by too much echo. The gist of what they were singing did come out, but it would have been a lot easier on the ears if one had been able to hear everything with clarity. Still, a minor detail that does not do much to detract from one's enjoyment of the production.

Joseph Gonzales, who functioned as choreographer for the production, should be congratulated for the cohesive and tight dance moves of the sisters. Of course, any production featuring women in the habit would not be complete without a couple of jokes about nuns, which were interspersed in the action throughout the show. Thankfully, as Sister Mary Hubert put it, "… we didn't stoop to jokes about penguins…" which drew a laugh from the audience, which also included real nuns.

Being a musical comedy, there was plenty of song and I have to admit, these women can sing. I had heard Suzan Manen sing before and her voice is still good. The other four voices were new to me but still great to listen to. It was especially nice when all five voices harmonised on some of the songs.

Not only was there song and dance, there were also cooking lessons from Baking with the BVM. The BVM in question, according to Sister Mary Regina, is the Blessed Virgin Mary. But what was contained in the cookbook was hilarious, with dishes like Mary Magdalene Tarts and Boy Scout Treats calling for hot brownies, the humour was definitely risqué but everyone enjoyed it. The infamous (and lethal!) tom yam made a brief reappearance as the recipe had been included in the cookbook.

Each of the characters was well fleshed-out and given a chance to develop so that the audience could identify with each of them. Even a short history of the order is also given. This made it easier to understand certain references made by the characters during the show. Each of the nuns had a different personality and the actors managed to portray these personalities with some success.