Sister Act

Aug 4 2018 | By More

★★★★★   Nun better

Edinburgh Tabernacle (Venue 120): Fri 3–Sat 11 Aug 2018
Review by Hugh Simpson

Tuneful, wonderfully acted and with the comic momentum of a juggernaut, Forth Children’s Theatre’s Sister Act at the Edinburgh Tabernacle is almost unimaginably entertaining.

Cheri and Bill Steinkellner’s musical is based on the movie but transplants the action to late 1970s Philadelphia. This lends itself to the disco touches in Alan Menken and Glenn Slater’s score which does not feature any of the film’s songs.

Forth Childrens Theatre EdFringe 2018 Sister Act The Sisters of Sister Act. Pic: Mark Gorman

The Sisters of Sister Act. Pic: Mark Gorman

The story – Deloris van Cartier, a wannabe singer who sees her hoodlum boyfriend committing murder and has to be hidden in a convent with an inept choir – is no sillier than many musicals, and when done well can be great fun.

That is definitely the case here, with director Charlie West’s command of comic timing on display. Non-professional stagings of Sister Act in Edinburgh have rambled on for three hours, or been bashed through so quickly they have barely made sense, but here the pace is just right.

There is an infectious sense of fun throughout, added to high production values and some wonderful performances, which completely disguise obvious plot holes.

What is notable about the singing is not just its power but its comparative restraint. Rather than just belting everything out, the featured performers tell the stories of the songs superbly. Laura Johnston’s Deloris is more nuanced than is usually the case, with a vulnerability behind her streetwise smartness that makes her character arc totally believable.

effective comic back-up

Frankie Cusack, as nice guy police officer Eddie, also does vulnerable very well. Moray McConnachie’s Curtis is a suitably slimy gangster, with Cameron Seath, Oliver Snodgrass and Niall Bayne providing effective comic back-up as his sidekicks. When I Find My Baby, which lays bare the violence implicit in many supposed love songs, is both comic and genuinely creepy. Murray Waters handles the Monsignor’s transition from buttoned-up cleric to loose-limbed MC with aplomb.

Laura Johnston. Pic: Mark Gorman

However, the male roles in this particular musical are really only there to support the women, and – with honourable mentions to Olivia Steele, Grace McKinlay and Roisin Caulfield’s accomplished nightclub singers – it is the nuns who are the real stars of the show.

Emilie Jardine’s exasperated mother Superior is beautifully prissy and clipped, Abbie Mullan’s Sister Mary Robert is mousy and repressed before bursting into life gloriously in her featured The Life I Never Led, and Eilidh West’s Sister Mary Patrick is a masterpiece of comic eccentricity. Isla Campbell, Gracie Briggs and Abby Pickavance complete a magnificent comic ensemble.

The nuns’ choruses, particularly on Raise Your Voice and Sunday Morning Fever, are genuinely as good here as they could conceivably be. Natasha Rose’s choreography – outstanding throughout – is even more impressive here, while MD Gus Harrower and his exceptional band provide tremendous support.

a joyous piece of theatre

The band get their due by being made visible in the opening number. If a criticism can be levelled generally at FCT, it is that the musicians are often hidden and therefore under-appreciated. Here, however, they get the credit they deserve.

This is just one of a series of spot-on decisions by director West, in a production whose attention to detail is exemplary. Perhaps the larger ensemble are underused in a smallish acting area– one of the glories of the choreography is the way that comparatively small spaces are so well used.

Craig Robertson and Calum Farrell’s set does lend itself well to discrete acting areas, which helps to speed the action up, and is notably well lit by Grant Anderson’s design and Claire Stewart’s operation. And if a smaller stage means more seats can be squeezed in, that is all to the good if more people can see such a joyous piece of theatre.

Running time 2 hours 40 minutes including one interval
Edinburgh Tabernacle (Venue 120), 41-42 Inverleith Gardens, EH3 5PR
Friday 3 – Saturday 11 August 2018
Daily at 7.30 pm (not Sun). Matinee Sat 2.30 pm.
Book tickets on the Fringe website:
FCT website:
Facebook: @forthchildrenstheatre


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Comments (4)

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  1. Good show not to be missed well done to all the cast

  2. Anne says:

    Great show, good music, singing, acting, and lots of laughs. A really professional production – the cast is so good that you forget that they are so young. A show well worth seeing.

  3. Ava Melrose says:

    Great show! Good to see my big cousin Cameron on the stage..