THE ABBEY Theatre production of’ ‘The Killing of Sister George’ was a blackly humorous treatment of a dysfunctional relationship and workplace paranoia that transferred quite well into the 21st Century.
The story revolves around June Buckridge, a foul-mouthed, gin-swilling radio voice actress who plays the nationally adored Sister George in an Archers-style programme called ‘Applehurst’.
June is often referred to as George, reflecting the fuzzy line that exists for her between fiction and reality, and this line becomes increasingly blurred when she discovers her character must die to save the show.
June lives with a younger woman called Alice McNaught, whom she calls ‘Childie’, and while it is never admitted outright, the pair appear to be in some form of sadomasochistic relationship.
June becomes paranoid that Sister George is for the chop, and her behaviour becomes increasingly erratic and violent. She attacks a pair of nuns and her physical and mental abuse of Childie increases.
Caroline Pennant Jones should take it as a compliment that her Sister George / June can be described as mannish, misogynistic and barely likeable!
The audience struggles to sympathise at first, but many can empathise with how uncertainty at work can affect home life.
Hilary Tasker is on form as the naïve and abused Childie, a passive-aggressive character who becomes some sort of prize to be fought over by George and Mrs Mercy Croft.
Often it is George’s treatment of Childie that prevents the audience from truly feeling sorry for her plight, such as when she makes Childie eat a cigar butt, or orders her to drink her bath water.
Mercy Croft, another radio personality, and George’s boss is played very subtly and with great nuance by Laura Adam.
At the beginning Mercy appears to be a sweet and supportive character, but as the plot progresses an ulterior motive becomes apparent and she is revealed to be almost as manipulative and controlling as George as she steals Childie away from George.
It is amusing to note that the only straightforward character is Madame Zenia, and she is a gypsy tarot reader with some cracking one-liners!
Marjory Robertson expertly avoids the pitfall of having too strong an accent, and her comic delivery is spot on.
Congratulations must go to the set builders and painters who brought to life a 1960s flat, with several nice period touches such as the G-Plan sideboard, and hideous upholstery!
Special mention must go to the lighting and sound crew under Stephen Gilbert for their work recreating the atmosphere of a radio broadcast for Sister George’s final scene.
The costume department of Lynn McNairn, Susie McKinstray and friends made a good job of designing a very masculine George, replete with jodhpurs and riding boots.
‘The Killing of Sister George’ runs until Saturday, February 11. Tickets, £7, can be bought online at www.theabbeytheatre.org or from Abbey Music.