‘Hail Mary’ is the latest comedy written and directed by WA’s Noel O’Neill.
Irish born, university lecturer Noel has a real penchant for writing deeply moving plays, but it is the comedies for which he is mainly known, and this is one of his funniest. Noel is now destined never to pass through the Pearly Gates.
The two-hour production by the Old Mill Theatre Company can be seen at the Old Mill Theatre, on the corner of Mends Street and Mill Point Road, South Perth. There are shows at 8.00 on Wednesday, Thursday, Friday and Saturday evenings until the 24th April. There is also a Sunday matinee on the 19th.
The scene is Father Costello’s office in a WA convent. The walls are limestone block – another impressive piece of theatre artwork from Tim Prosser and his construction partner, Phil Barnett. To the right of the stage is an area that acts as part of the office, then as a courtyard garden.
Ben Davis’s fine lighting design was operated by BioBox tech John Spurling.
Sister Abbott (Caroline McDonnell – hilarious) sips at another glass of communion wine, as she tries to do some bookwork in the convent’s office. Across the room, Sister Marilyn (Julia Trefeli) takes another pathetic swipe at some balls of tissue with the golf putter she has pinched from Father Costello (Noel O’Neill – brilliant). Meanwhile, Sister Francis (Vivienne Marshall) is having severe doubts about her commitment to the Lord and the convent, especially when her Mother Superior (Norma Davis) thinks she is Julie Andrews in the ‘Sound of Music’.
The housemaid (Dale James) has just topped up the drinks trolley, when Father Costello returns from his round of golf – half drunk. The Father seems to have no qualms about working his way through the many sins mentioned in the Bible. The trendy nun, Sister Vinnie, who has red trainers and a gold chain around her neck, reminiscent of TV’s Mr T, announces that the Archbishop (Rex Gray) has arrived with bad news. The convent is in a dire financial state and must be closed. However, an incident with the new shy and very nervous nun, Sister Rosa (Jesse McGinn – superb), might save the day.
Noel has gathered a very strong team together. Dry, subtle humour can be a little difficult for some actors to perform, but in this show they all worked together beautifully, and the laughs just kept coming. With the perfect costumes by Jenny Prosser, Claire Wynne and Cathy Puzey, it was hard to believe that you were not a fly on the wall of a real convent.
In the past, when Noel is acting as well as directing, he has been known to miss the odd line of dialogue, giving the impression he was still supervising the directing instead of concentrating upon his own part. Here Noel knows he has a talented cast, with great characters, and he just went for it. Slightly over the top, he really milked every line. Exceptionally funny.
This is certainly a hilarious play, definitely worth going out on a wet winter’s night to see. Highly recommended.