Adelaide Theatre Guide Review
Religion and faith can be a delicate target when it comes to humour. As Lesley Reed says in her Director's Notes, "there is a fine balance to be achieved in direction and performance in terms of lampooning the hypocrisy of the church yet not offending the faithful." Galleon's production of 'Incorruptible' manages to find that balance well, mining laughs from the absurdity of the character's actions, but without being mean spirited or overly cynical. 'Incorruptible' never feels heavy or depressing, and it doesn't take itself too seriously. As a result, the play is a feel-good romp, brought to life by a solid ensemble cast.
Set in Priseaux, France in 1250 AD, 'Incorruptible's action takes place in a ramshackle monastery, a holy place that homes the bones of Saint Foy. Unfortunately, she hasn't performed a miracle in years, and the church is falling apart. The abbot Charles (Peter Davies), is positive the Lord will provide for them in time; meanwhile Brother Martin (Andrew Clark) is making plans to eat their donkeys, Brother Felix (Josh van't Padje) is struggling to keep his mind off the fairer sex, and Brother Olf (Matthew Chapman) has discovered a dead body. When it seems like things could not be grimmer, the monks have an encounter with a shady one-eyed minstrel named Jack (Andy Steuart), and a plan to get back in the miracle game is formed. Exploring ideas like the power of belief, and the nature of virtue, and whether noble intentions can ever justify less-than-noble actions, Michael Hollinger's script is witty and insightful, and Lesley Reed does excellent work bringing it to life.
The play has no singular leads, and each member of the ensemble gets a chance to shine. As a whole, the show has been cast well, with all the actors bringing their own quirks and unique voices to the characters. Davies balances Charles's internal struggle between his vice and his virtue, Padje is adorably sweet as Felix, and Steuart brings the appropriate amount of sleaze and simplicity to the role of Jack. Maxine Grubel, Ashley Penny, and Lindy Le Cornu all make their mark in the three female roles, with Le Cornu in particular stealing the spotlight as soon as she enters. Matthew Chapman as Olf is a consistent performance, but the decision to have him portray his simple mindedness by talking slowly doesn't really work, as it falls out of the step with the sharp pace of the rest of the ensemble's dialogue, and means a lot of the jokes fall flat. The stand-out of the cast is Andrew Clark as Brother Martin, who gets the most laughs of the night due to his pitch-perfect timing, subtle characterisation, and thorough command of the character's cynicism and desperation.
There are a couple of weak spots; some of the dialogue becomes unintelligible due to the speed at which it's delivered and some difficulty with the accents, and there were a few dropped lines on opening night. Not all of the jokes land as well as they could, but the vast majority do, and as a whole Reed has directed the show superbly, bringing out both the humorous and the heartfelt moments. The show's design is brilliant, with an absolutely beautiful set with delightful attention to detail, and the sound design is exquisitely executed.
'Incorruptible' is a cracker of a show; it moves at a rip-roaring pace without a dull moment, and while it's first and foremost a comedy-and a truly hilarious one at that-it also touches on some pertinent questions about faith, morality, and truth. Galleon has produced quite a little gem with this one.
Reviewed by Sarah Westgarth
Broadway World Review
Reviewed by Barry Lenny, Thursday 3rd May 2018.
Written by Michael Hollinger in 1996, and directed by Lesley Reed, Galleon Theatre Company is presenting the very funny farce, Incorruptible: A Dark Comedy about the Dark Ages, which shows that every man has his price, even the holy men of a small French monastery.
The monastery is in Priseaux, France, and, in 1250 AD, it has seen better days. The bones of St. Foy no longer attract pilgrims as she has not had a single miracle attributed to her in many years. The town is also suffering, with the river having recently flooded, and the chandler's shop burnt to the ground. Poverty is everywhere, particularly in the monastery, which is in serious need of repairs.
Charles, the abbot of Priseaux, and his second-in-command, Brother Martin, along with the two novices, Brothers Felix and Olf, are at their wits end until a one-eyed minstrel named Jack offers them a very dodgy solution.
The Roman Catholic Church claims that the bodies of some saints are incorruptible, meaning that they do not decay, as do the bodies of ordinary people. They claim that they are supernaturally persevered, quoting Psalm 16:10. The few that are around today, of course, do not bear close inspection, as any decay that does occur is hidden with some careful touching up of exposed parts, such as the addition of a wax facemask, or hand coverings. Anything else, hidden beneath a shroud, is easily faked. The Church has always, and still does, rely on the effectiveness of holy relics, corpses, statues, beads, not forgetting the wine and wafer, and other physical objects, as a means to convince its followers that the bible is really the word of a deity by offering these physical 'proofs', albeit that book having been written entirely by human beings, translated, retranslated, edited, and tampered with, to suit the order of the day and the ruling powers.
That becomes important knowledge, as this black comedy progresses and the monks attempt to lure the Pope to visit them and rekindle their financial income. To get him there, they need a miracle, and one performed by an incorruptible is right at the pinnacle of attractions.
Incidentally, Sainte Foy, or Foi, meaning Saint Faith, really existed. She was a 13-year-old girl who was martyred in the fourth century, and she is still popular in Europe and Latin America. The Abbey Church of Sainte Foy, the building of which was begun in the eighth century, and which houses her remains, is in Conques, in the Occitanie region of France. The current building has a world heritage listing.
First-time director, Lesley Reed, has cast two every experienced actors, and Galleon favourites, Peter Davies and Andrew Clark, in the key roles of Abbott Charles and Brother Martin, with Andy Steuart making his first appearance with the company as the disreputable Jack, who they force to join them as Brother Norbert for the duration of their macabre enterprise. Steuart brings a wealth of experience from working with other Adelaide companies. These three are the primary characters in the play and they have been well cast in this production.
Davies, Clarke, and Steuart create some fascinating and well-developed characters and, most importantly, work extremely well together as the unholy trinity.
Charles is questioning and losing his faith, with all of the angst that goes with that, while the pragmatic Martin is an opportunistic cynic. They make an unlikely pair of monks, their relationship providing a lot of the humour in this play. Whilst Martin adopts Jack's ideas with glee at the thought of putting the Abby back on the map, Charles goes along with it, but tries to fool himself that it has little or nothing to do with him. Even Jack, whose initial plan starts the whole process, is aghast at how everything seems to get out of hand, especially at the ultimate task imposed on him by the Brothers.
Matthew Chapman had me wondering for a while, with what seemed to be an attempt to give Brother Olf an unusual affectation in his speech, with a hint of Derek Nimmo about it. It eventually sank in that Brother Olf is slow-witted, which the high-pitched voice did not convey. A slow and low delivery might have been more effective, but one became accustomed to it.
Josh van't Padje played Brother Felix, a young monk trying hard to be spiritual, but still very much attached to the ways of the outside world, particularly female company of the closest kind. He offers a well-rounded characterisation in the role.
Maxine Grubel plays a belligerent and tight-fisted peasant, who also happens to be the mother of Marie, the almost-wife of Jack. Grubel gives us an hilarious character, as wily as a fox, who is unhampered by ethics, happily acting as her daughter's pimp.
Marie, Jack's dancer and sort-of wife, full-time prostitute, and reluctant part-time incorruptible, is played by Ashley Penny in an energetic performance, with some fine song and dance moves and a great feel for comedy.
Lindy LeCornu plays Agatha, Abbess of Bernay, and the overly competitive sister of Charles. Her Abbess is not somebody whom you would want to cross, or even meet up a dark alley. LeCornu creates a nicely scary character who lives up to everything said about her by Charles before she makes her first appearance.
The set, by Kym Clayton and Britany Daw, is very effective, the costumes by Trisha Graham, Fran Hardie, and Sally Putnam are appropriate to the era, and modern musical arrangements of music from the 12th to 16th Centuries, by Kim Orchard, adds to the atmosphere.
Some lines went astray here and there, and the pace occasionally slipped, but, hopefully, this was just opening night nerves and will be remedied quickly. There are, nonetheless, plenty of laughs in this production, so pack a supper and book a table.
Reviewed by Barry Lenny
GLAM Adelaide Review
The publicity describes this production as a dark comedy about the dark ages! That about sums it up nicely, with the emphasis on comedy. Michael Hollinger has written a play about moral dilemmas - we all face them - the concept of doing the right thing for the wrong reason. Of course, there are some things that are never right, right?
Set in a monastery on a nicely designed set, courtesy of Kym Clayton and Brittany Daw, director Lesley Reed has chosen her cast well and has given the characters a believable framework. With veteran actors like Peter Davies (Charles, the Abbot) and Andrew Clark (Brother Martin) the script is in good hands. Davies has just the right amount of moral wavering and Clark a surfeit of forcefulness and pragmatism. Brother Felix, Josh van't Padje, is the young idealist who is only there because he believes he is responsible for his sweetheart's death whilst Brother Olf, beautifully played by Mathew Chapman, is just bright enough to follow orders, maybe.
The start of the unravelling is the entrance of a peasant woman, Maxine Grubel (who plays her for every laugh) and the news that the bones of Saint Foy have mysteriously appeared at a rival religious establishment run by Charles' sister Agatha, Lindy le Cornu. Desperate for a miracle the brothers accept the peasant woman's offer to bring her daughter Marie, Ashley Penny, and her 'husband' Jack, Andy Steuart, to organise such an event. The music sounds right for the era and was adapted from music written between 1100 and 1500 by Kim Orchard, keeping the feel of the era.
Penny and Stewart are well matched and argue like a couple; they create the right illusion. Between Davies and particularly Clark and Steuart the one-liners have the audience in stitches whilst never losing the narrative. The last scene is hilarious with Le Cornu at her comic best and panic encompassing the entire cast. The end brings a lovely twist which most of the audience have anticipated.
This play is different, funny and maintains Galleon's high standards. I thoroughly recommend it; we all need a good laugh!
Reviewed by Fran Edwards
Stage Whispers Review
Incorruptible is Black Adder meets The Life of Brian and then some.
Set in 1250 AD in the run-down monastery of Priseaux, located in France, the play centres on a group of monks whose holy relic, Saint Foy, is failing to answer prayers, let alone produce miracles. So, in order to boost their 'good works' they decide to rob graves, boil down the bones and sell them as holy relics to other orders. This goes well until one of the monks decides to produce an 'incorruptible' (a saint whose body has not decayed) to impress the Pope.
Sounds macabre I know, but it isn't. Incorruptible treads the delicate line between dark comedy and farce and does it extremely well, thanks to the direction of Lesley Reed*, the marvellous set, props, costumes and a very talented cast.
Reed has certainly done her research. The costumes and music (adapted by Kim Orchard from original music from 1100 to 1500AD) hit the mark as does the pace of the play, which never lets up. Her direction takes the comedy just far enough - any further and it would have descended into broad farce.
Unlike many comedies, Incorruptible launches straight into the laughs and this is due in a large degree to the actors who portray the band of monks and the others who visit their monastery.
Andrew Clark's Brother Martin is a masterpiece of timing. He is sly, wheedling and conniving. He nails every laugh line and is the glue that holds the story together. Unlike some of the other monks, he has a realistic view of life and is not afraid to bend the rules to achieve the order's charter.
Peter Davies' Charles is the opposite to Brother Martin, torn between wanting to do good works and the morality of robbing graves and deceiving others. Charles is the bridge between the religious and the outside world and Davies nails the role with a balance of humour and pathos.
Matthew Chapman's Brother Olf is the slow-witted monk of the order; slow witted, but lovable. His revelation when finding that his candles have no wicks after searching all day for them is hysterical.
Josh van't Padje's Brother Felix is a lisping, love-struck innocent torn between his religious duty and love. He is naivety personified and consequently often torn between his duty as a monk and his feelings as a man. Van't Padje makes this character his own, complete with an amazing centre-part hairstyle.
There are, of course, visitors to the monastery. Maxine Grubel's peasant woman is a salute to Brian's mother from the Life of Brian. She is blunt, coarse and self-serving. Her attempts to pray at the start of the play are wonderfully funny.
Ashley Penny as Marie is every inch her daughter. A 'singer-dancer', she travels with a minstrel and briefly becomes the 'incorruptible'. She is a delight, particularly her dance number with the minstrel.
Andy Steuart's minstrel, Jack, is the ultimate manipulator. He manages this until he is caught out by the brothers and undergoes somewhat of a transformation which I will not reveal in this review. A highlight of Steuart's performance is the minstrel's failed attempts at entertaining the monks.
Finally, Agatha, Charles' fiery sister. Head of her own order, she takes no prisoners. Lindy Le Cornu, well known to Adelaide audiences, sails on stage like the Queen Mary and commands her scenes. She proves there is no such thing as a small part.
I must admit, initially I thought this play might offend the religious beliefs of some audience members. I needn't have worried. Incorruptible is so tongue in cheek that you just have to laugh.
Incorruptible is a great way to spend a cold night out in a warm, welcoming theatre while enjoying a highly entertaining play.
*Lesley Reed reviews for Stage Whispers.
Reviewed by Barry Hill
Firstly I wish to sincerely apologise to Galleon for never making the trek from Salisbury to Marion in the past. The venue is amazing and the eating establishments in the area are yummy.
I must concur with Ian Rigney's comment, I too cannot understand why it has taken Lesley Reed so long to direct. This production was extremely funny and fast paced. Interval arrived before we knew it and there was no chance for numb bottoms or wriggling patrons. This play by Michael Hollinger is written with tongue very firmly planted in cheek however addresses the very real dilemma facing us all at times of whether it is ok to do the wrong thing for the right reason.
The exceptional cast of performers handled the comedy extremely well without sliding into the ridiculous or trying to play it strictly for laughs. Whilst all were brilliant, stand outs for me were, as always, Andrew Clarkas Brother Martin and Andy Steuart as Jack. Special mention must also go to Josh Van't Padje as Brother Felix. The final scene between Jack and Brother Felix actually gave me goose-bumps. I am not going to divulge what happens, you have to buy a ticket and find out for yourselves.
The set design by Kym Clayton and Brittany Daw was simple but extremely functional with multiple entrances which were well defined and used effectively. Lighting was also minimal but covered the space well.
I Highly recommend seeing this production.
Reviewed by Jacqui Wall
If you are a fan of live theatre, I have a treat for you. The Galleon Theatre Group Inc. has commenced performing Incorruptible by Michael Hollinger. The play premiered on Thursday May 3 2018. Remaining performances include Friday May 4, Saturday May 5, Thursday May 10, Friday May 11, and Saturday May 12 at 8 pm. My personal choice would be the afternoon matinee, Saturday May 12.
The venue is the Domain Theatre, Marion Cultural Centre, 287 Diagonal Road, Oaklands Park. This is conveniently located opposite Marion Shopping centre and parking is easy. An in-house cafeteria serves coffee, wine, cake and snacks before the performance and during the interval to create an enjoyable night out.
Incorruptible also represents the directorial debut of Lesley Reed, who must have been nervous after all her years as a critic, however, I would say she absolutely nailed it! The first notable things are the background and set. The inner walls of the stage are lined with stone-like artwork so realistic I spent much of the play gaping at it.
The costumes are simple, but also vastly convincing. The monks' robes looked old and did not smack of modern clerical costume or the church dress-up cupboard. I did notice with slight amusement, however, that the male actors had not shaven their heads in a 'tonsure' and donned little skull caps.
The acting was very professional with just the right amount of added gesture and movement to attract attention on stage. At one stage, a male actor was lifting a female actor with apparent ease. I don't know whether there is a balanced point where a person slung over your shoulder becomes easier to carry, but I was amazed at the length of time he had to stand around disguising the fact he was carrying her. He must have been amazingly strong.
The play itself is well written and takes its premise from the genuine corruptions of the Christian church during the Middle Ages. It is true that there were more relics and body parts of saints scattered throughout churches in the known world than Jesus and the apostles could possibly have left behind. The situational humour generated from this circumstance is irreverent and almost satirical. The repartee is brilliant and yet still manages to masquerade as conversation.
You would probably have had a bigger belly laugh at the lambasting of the organised church of that era if you did not have a Christian background than if you did! I occasionally felt witticisms were more 'true' than funny, despite the regrettable implications. The church did oppress and deceive the poor parishioners, demanding offerings for miracles and Indulgences. Many of the monks who did this may have started off as well-meaning and some benefits may have flowed through to 'other poor'.
After nearly two hours of anti-religious humour (including interval) - I was pleasantly surprised by the ending. The playwright gently allowed miracles to recommence when the monks placed their faith back into their local saint! We don't know what the Pope thought about this because he never arrived, remaining an off-stage dramatic device. The ultimate message appeared to be that while organised religion might not always be healthy - faith is real.
Reviewed by Cecelia