We’ll Have Nun of It is a poignant coming-of-age story that muses on family, religion, gender, queerness, and 1960s Anglo-Irish relations through a decadent folk score. Sounds like a lot to capture in an hour? It is. And, as such, this promising new musical feels like it’s just touching the surface of its potential.
The musical traverses a year that four young girls spend at an Irish Catholic convent school in London, with narrative input from writers’ Rosie Dart and Finola Southgate’s own family experience. The stark convent surroundings are effectively represented through two wooden benches, which are rearranged throughout the show in order to represent various settings and facilitate constantly engaging choreography.
Finola Southgate’s score, which beautifully balances folk and soft rock, never stops giving and operates to elevate its vocalists’ and instrumentalists’ various strengths. All of our cast are excellent performers with their own unique identities and stories which are conveyed through their vocal styles and movement.
Mary, played by Juliette Artigala, is questioning her faith and sexuality, and her relative holiness, in comparison to the others, is relayed through her contemplative and gospel vocal performance. This contrasts with her romance interest Eliza (Angel Lema)’s dulcet indie tones, which provide a blissful grounding for the performance.
Heather Gourdie as Bernie, on the other hand, thrives projecting her Irish choral ballads, which emphasise her innocence as she sings of the sexual abuse she experiences at the hands of one of the convent’s fathers. This is one of the most devastating moments of the show, which seems to unjustifiably fade into nothing once the song has finished.
Indeed, We’ll Have Nun of It offers moments of narrative clarity of interest but leaves so many loose ends that it becomes difficult to identify an overarching plot. Many songs utilise lyrics that prioritise mood setting over efficiently conveying the story. What results is a vagueness that makes the show difficult to follow, yet immersion into its musical landscape is nonetheless enjoyable.
There is no doubt that We’ll Have Nun of It is an impressive feat, especially for a fringe show. The sheer talent presented on stage is definitely worth watching, however I would prefer to see the full two-hour show this narrative deserves.