This is not, before those of a religious disposition take umbrage, an out-and-out attack on the Roman Catholic Church. Immaculate Correction isn’t the first show out there to make light of the Church’s attitude towards sex. It wasn’t that long ago that the West End had a play with Scottish schoolgirl characters rebelling against their church school teachers, Our Ladies of Perpetual Succour. But this play has less ‘eff, cee and effing cee’ in its dialogue, and it sometimes turns poetical, with rhyming couplets that occasionally only work properly in a Caledonian accent.
The play starts with a familiar scene. Stacey (Dani Heron) is being pressurised by Michelle (Rachel Jackson) – it’s a typically British grey morning, and Stacey is in danger of missing the school bus if she doesn’t make a move soon. Doubling up as the show’s narrator, Stacey makes observations about her station in life, and what it’s like to live in a rural community where everyone knows almost everyone else. She also seems to agree with Terry Waite, the former Church of England envoy, who ended up hating traditional services for their regimental approach: thou shalt stand to sing this hymn, thou shalt sit and listen to a fire and brimstone sermon (Mr Waite, for the record, is not mentioned in the play).
Things are, arguably, worse for working-class children growing up now than in 2005 – there may, for instance, have been giggles in the audience during a toilet scene, but I wonder if Stacey would, had she been growing up in 2018, fall under the alarming number of secondary schoolgirls who find themselves truanting because they cannot afford sanitary protection. When Michelle promises to buy Stacey chips the following day as a peace offering, it speaks volumes about eating well being viewed in some quarters as an expensive (and thus unachievable) ideal.
As someone who gets a tad frustrated with shows that have a lot of short scenes, and thus a lot of scene changes, I was impressed with the long monologues from Stacey, delivered with a mixture of sincerity and mischievousness. Heron’s Stacey has a good stage presence, and even when being aggressive and confrontational, in the manner in which many (yes, of course, by no means all) teenagers tend to be, retains a rapport with the audience. There’s not much I can personally relate to in this story – having attended a non-religious school, sex education was on the curriculum, and I don’t recall ever having set foot in a branch of Jane Norman. But I could still follow what was happening quite easily.
Adding to the proceedings is Stacey’s friend Kelly (Morgan Drew Glasgow) who is, to summarise, doing sex education by practical experimentation, if you catch my drift. But my favourite moment was Stacey’s recollection of a confession, in which she confessed to Father Maguire, a hard-line Catholic priest, amongst other things, that she has had intercourse before marriage, sees nothing wrong with “the gays” and would be happy to marry a Protestant. And there he sat, on the other side of the confession booth, speechless.
Ideally, the audience would have heard from different perspectives, not just Stacey’s – I would particularly have been interested in the thought processes of Michelle, and perhaps Stacey’s least favourite teacher, Patsy McGee, currently a relatively minor on-stage character. As it is, however, it’s a thoughtful and witty piece of theatre from a vibrant and talented cast.
Review by Chris Omaweng
“Sex is bad. Dirty, filthy, ugly, yucky, slutty, wrong. Sex is wrong. You shouldn’t do it until you’re married, that’s what Ms McGee says’.
Glasgow 2005. Catholic schoolgirl Stacey is sick of being the odd one out. Mum says she’s ‘an immaculate conception… brought by the angels’. Her best friend Kelly has had loads of sex. Boys are mean, and now her dreams of escape and X Factor stardom have been shat on.
Immaculate Correction is a dark comic exploration about working class Scotland, religion and what happens when your only access to sex education is porn.
Playwright/ Director: Catherine Expósito
Producer: Alistair Wilkinson
Stage Manager: Ruth Burgon
Lighting Design: Benny Goodman
Set Design: Rachel Moore
Sound Design: Rachael Murray
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9th to 13th July 2018