Drinking habits is a play by Tom Smith which tells the story of the convent of the Sisters of perpetual Sewing with a big secret!
This is farce in every sense of the word as it has numerous doors and doorways, several characters incognito in costume and some fast moving action.
Blackmore Players always have a top quality set and this once again ticked all the boxes. I have to also mention the programme as this was one of the best designed programmes I have seen in a long time.
The play opened with Sisters Philamena played by Linda Cearns and Sister Augusta by Jenny Harper who reveal they have secretly been making wine as well as grape juice to help the convent stay afloat but they cannot let Mother Superior played by Paula Harris Brett know as she has a major aversion to Alcohol because she can't even speak the word "wine" much less let any pass her lips. Both Linda and Jenny gave us very specific characterisations of their nuns but more importantly they worked very well together which was a solid base for the chaos which followed.
Paula was outstanding as Mother Superior, her facial expressions were spot on and big enough we could clearly see all her thoughts and feelings. The strong irish accent and her comic timing were very reminiscent of Brendan O’carroll as Mrs Brown and the audience clearly warmed to her as a character without it being a caricature. I loved her.
When you throw into the mix two reporters who were almost married sneaking into the convent to do an expose. The mele starts. Becky Smith as Sally and James Hughes as Paul were the two reporters going undercover in the convent. Becky has a strong persona on stage and easily commands attention but I didn’t feel she totally committed to acting the softer side of the role. I personally would have liked to see more of her considering the options but then letting her head rule her heart, rather than hard brashness which left us with rather two dimensional character. James is also a top class performer and the many characters and costumes were a god send for him and his comedic timing. In addition, the audience were also able to empathise with the love struck reporter who was jilted at the altar. And all round strong performance.
Visiting the convent, under the guidance of the Cardinal is Sister Mary Catherine played by Sandra Trott. Sandra had a youthfulness and effervescence which was perfect for this role. Father Chenille, the ‘real’ local priest was played by Andrew Raymond and Andrew delivered some cracking one liners and was perfectly cast in this role and Adam smith as the groundsman George was a little slow to find his feet but came to fruition when he found the punch. The trick is not to over play that if the audience react well and this will possibly be Adams biggest challenge.
The many twists and turns of the plot were skilfully handled and this gave the audience everything they wanted and more. My only other comments would be watch the diction as in places the cast were playing for the laughs and getting over excited in the process which meant we lost some what they were saying.
Also the double-time action section at end of act one was a little messy when the timing wasn’t as accurate as I am sure it was supposed to be, which left some big gaps and then mayhem. With sections like this the precision and timing is what makes the difference between some laughs and real belly laughs. It has to be like a drill squad with precision timing to make it work.
However, that is just an observation and constructive advice with what otherwise was an amazing evening entertainment and I strongly recommend anyone who lives outside the village who hasn’t seen one of these productions to grab a ticket and enjoy this crazy, farce for themselves.