Doubt

Published April 17, 2008

 is not the first production to delve into the abuse of children by authority figures, particularly of a religious persuasion. What makes it stand apart is that there is no proof of any abuse, just suspicions, theories, hunches and doubt. Matthew Amer was at the Tricycle to attend the press night of the Pulitzer Prize-winning play.

Set in the autumn of 1964, a year after the Kennedy assassination, Doubt takes place at a time when much of the world was questioning its beliefs. Sister Aloysius is the exception that proves the rule. She knows what she knows – discipline is necessary, teachers must not get too close to their pupils – and while the world changes around her, she is stoic in her beliefs.

So, when she suspects Father Flynn of inappropriate conduct towards the school’s first black pupil, her lack of evidence does not stop her from embarking on a mission to root him out.

John Patrick Shanley’s play is split between meetings and monologues – often Father Flynn’s sermons – one enlightening the other. Tensions are rife, not just because of the possible threat to a child and the issue of race but because of the change in times and ideals; which will come out on top, the new or the old?

Yet the plot takes a turn with the introduction of Mrs Muller, the mother of the boy involved, played with an understated pride and necessity by Nikki Amuka-Bird, possibly the only person to shock Dearbhla Molloy’s steadfast headmistress.

Marcella Plunkett delivers a confused, easily led Sister James, while Padraic Delaney’s charismatic Father Flynn is more than happy to lead the way forward until the old ways provide him with defence.

It is easy to fall for the charm of the Father as opposed to the harsh coldness of the Sister. Which one is in the right? I have my doubts.

Doubt: A Parable plays at the Tricycle until 12 January.

MA