Theatre / Nun better: Robert Hanks on convent life in The Nun; plus London Fringe round-up

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The Independent Culture
Literature rarely has a good word to say for life in the convent; and Diderot's The Nun, now staged at the Greenwich Studio Theatre, doesn't buck the trend. This one has it all: a reluctant nun, confined against her will, is persecuted by one mother superior and chased around the cloisters by another. You start to wonder what the Church has done to deserve this.

Julian Forsyth's adaptation is nowhere near ruthless enough with the original, and it would be much stronger without a clumsy epilogue in which Diderot explains the story's genesis. But acting and staging are all perfectly decent; and by and large it confirms the theatre's reputation as a venue to watch.

The sexual repression of The Nun finds a contemporary echo in Goodnight Desdemona (Good Morning Juliet) at the Turtle Key Arts Centre. Constance Ledbelly (Myriam Cyr) is an academic with a terrible sex life, a woolly hat and some woolly theories about the sources for Othello and Romeo and Juliet. Miraculously transported inside the plays, she manages to prevent Othello doing his pillow act with Desdemona, and promotes friendship between the Montagues and Capulets.

Ann-Marie MacDonald is yet another Canadian playwright; but she has more in common with Robertson Davies - anglophile, literary, joky - than Robert Lepage. This play has some good one- liners and some entertaining mock-Shakespearian verse, and Cyr is excellent. You wish, though, that she'd landed in rather better productions of the tragedies; and that the whole thing was half an hour shorter.

Given the number of really worthwhile revivals the Orange Tree has come up with, Someone Waiting is a bizarre choice: a credulity-straining Emlyn Williams pot-boiler from 1955, with a plot that revolves around Swedish accents and copies of the Observer fortuitously transported to Australia and back. There are clever twists, and your sympathies are deftly shifted between characters. But even with the period precision and heroically convinced performances of this production, it's startlingly flimsy.

'Goodnight Desdemona' runs to 2 July at Turtle Key, London SW6 (071-385 4905). 'The Nun', to 26 June, Greenwich Studio, London SE10 (081-858 2862). 'Someone Waiting', to 23 July, Orange Tree, Richmond (081-940 3633)

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