The setting is a Catholic school in the Bronx, New York. It is 1964, a time of explosive social change that is challenging the established church. Sister Aloysius Beauvier, the principle of St Nicholas school is a no-nonsense, disciplinarian of the old school, dedicated to her duties to teach and protect the children, and obedient to her faith and the church. But she has doubts. Not about her faith or her views of the world, but about the school pastor, Father Flynn, and his relationships with the boys in the school, or more specifically with one boy: 12-year-old Donald Muller, who has only recently arrived at St Nicholas and happens to be the first and only black child in the school. Sister Aloysius is determined to air her doubts and pursues a sequence of enquiries that rocks the school community as well as her own certainties.
This is John Patrick Shanley’s disturbing and moving play, Doubt, which in the precise psychological orchestration of the relationships between its principal characters challenges us all to question our certainties. The play was first produced off-Broadway in New York in November 2004, before transferring to Broadway in March 2005. It won the Tony Award for Best Play, as well as the Pulitzer Prize for Drama that year, and was made into a film in 2008 written and directed by the play’s author and starring Meryl Streep, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Amy Adams and Viola Davis. As we record this episode it is being revived at the Chichester Festival Theatre with Monica Dolan, Sam Spruell, Jessica Rhodes and Rebecca Scroggs delivering stunning performances.
I am delighted to be joined by Monica Dolan, who shares her insights from playing Sister Aloysius in the Chichester production.