Review: Electric Rosary
A poignant exploration of humanity, brought to life by detailed and complex acting
Sat in the Corpus Playroom, I was surprised by how poignant, tense and funny a play about robot nuns could be. Tim Foley’s Electric Rosary created a vivid story with complex characters, which were given real depth by the cast.
Set in a convent in the close future, Electric Rosary follows the remaining nuns when Acting Mother Elizabeth decides to open St Grace’s Convent to a humanoid robot, Mary, largely to obtain the council bursary. This exacerbates tensions between the nuns, who are dealing with the unrest outside, and conflict within the convent as they struggle to decide on the right way forward.
While the play started off hysterically funny, this faded as we saw the subject become more serious; as Mary grapples with her own faith, tensions rise amongst the nuns and the threat of the Luddites increases. While at some points I wished for the earlier comedy, all actors were great in both settings and created distinct identities for their characters which really shone through.
Flossie Adrian’s Theresa was particularly stand-out, creating a joyous and energetic energy whenever they entered the stage. However, they also brought depth to Theresa, who, an optimistic novice nun, was not particularly respected within the convent due to her plucky ideas and enthusiasm. Their comedic timing, along with the rest of the cast, was tight and well-delivered, eliciting many laughs from the audience.
While the character of the Child was confusing and a bit too restless, Eanna Ferguson’s crazed Luddite made the finale tense and atmospheric and had me on the edge of my seat. Also, while Constance was largely a monotonous character by design for the first sections of the play, Edith Stewart really shone in the later scenes, as her character was morally torn and grappling with her own faith, life and relationships with the other nuns. Charlie Scott-Haynes’s interpretation of the robotic Mary, who gradually adapts to become more and more human, was entertainingly mechanical in the start, and devastatingly human by the end, showing a real range, and a complex understanding of the character.
Toby Collins’ set design helped show a convent which was down on its luck, underfunded and sparsely decorated, filled with an array of random clutter and unused congregation chairs. This was really effective in showing the emptiness and remoteness of the convent and made the threat of violent Luddite protestors feel even more real. Another tool which was used particularly effectively was the lighting, which, through occasionally coming from a floor-level light, created an interesting dynamic and sharp shift, heightening the tension and adding a sense of confusion, particularly to dream-like vision scenes.
While a cyclical rotation format was used perhaps one too many times, it started as an effective tool for building suspense and building the pace, resulting in some comedic overlaps of speech. The use of the Playroom layout was largely good in its variation, though in some scenes, actors had their backs directly to the audience, meaning we missed out on some of the full meaning of the scenes. However, the fast pace and quick turnover between scenes kept the play moving and the audience involved.
Overall, the play really demonstrated the strength of the acting and created a complex world which felt tangible to the audience, including the sense of impending doom. Highly effective, Electric Rosary left me with food for thought.
Electric Rosary is showing at 7 pm on the 14th – 18th of February at the Corpus Playroom. Book tickets here.