The Killing of Sister George

Newport Riverfront

The death of a popular soap character is a regular occurrence in 2014, however way back in 1954 when the character of Grace Archer was killed off in a stable fire in the BBC radio serial The Archers there was a national outcry and a healthy boost in the radio drama’s audience figures.

The incident and behind the scenes reasoning for killing out a popular character from a drama was parodied five years later by Ray Galton and Alan Simpson for the Tony Hancock TV episode The Bowman’s. Similarly (and with a comical influence possibly influenced by The Bowman’s) Frank Marcus wrote The Killing of Sister George around a very similar scenario for the stage in 1965.

Controversial as The Killing of Sister George might have been back in the 60s with its undertones of domestic abuse and then illegal lesbian relationships, it stands up today as a very strong black comedy with complex female characterisations.

Theatr Pena under the direction of Erica Eirian successfully take the audience back to 1965 and the drama which unfolds surrounding the imminent dismissal of actress June Buckridge as long term matriarch Sister George from the radio soap Applehurst following her drunken assault of two nuns in a taxi.

The setting of a fashionable 60s London flat is the main focal point of action in this production focussing on the dominant relationship of June and her housemate/lover Alice.

Christine Pritchard and Hannah O’ Leary respectively take on the complex and shifting roles of June and Alice, displaying diverse aspects of a relationship that displays extremes from love to abuse. The relationship of the characters was of course displayed to the total extreme in the film version of this production, but as this stage version reveals has much more subtlety and depth, displayed to perfection by the aforementioned actresses.

Rosamund Shelley is BBC Producer Mercy Croft who brings about Sister George’s downfall via a collision with a heavy goods vehicle in Applehurst with necessity and aplomb while similarly setting the wheels I motion for June’s personal downfall in real life.

LLinos Daniel portrays Madam Xenia, June’s Polish charismatic fortune teller neighbour who adds much in the way of comical performance to the proceedings, a highlight been her visual reaction on hearing June’s demise in Applehurst.

The Killing of Sister George continues until Saturday before moving on to further venues. Don’t miss this chance to catch 60s drama performed with 21st century edge. Call (01633) 656679 for ticket details.

Andy Howells