It’s very rare that amateur theatre productions come with a level of intense storytelling that takes you out of your seat and into the very heart of the events on stage, but that is exactly what Simon Ward’s production of Agnes of God in Nottingham achieved.
Charting the tale of Doctor Livingstone (played by Anna Sanderson), a court appointed psychiatrist employed to determine the events surrounding a troubled nun’s pregnancy, the play deals with themes of love, loss, faith and acceptance.
Throughout the performance, the mystery of Sister Agnes’s (Lindsay Foster) pregnancy and the involvement of Mother Superior (Katie Ward) are slowly revealed under Livingstone’s thorough scrutiny, but it is Livingstone’s obsession with helping Agnes that is really remarkable.
The trio are the only performers in what is a sparse but enticing performance, and work together like a team of seasoned professionals. Stripped of all the gospel singing and other distractions from the original which can distance the audience, Ward pulls his audience in and doesn’t let go until the astonishing conclusion.
The performances of the three are good, and tellingly you find your sympathies rotating around each character in a clever, weaving plot, but it is Sanderson’s portrayal of Livingstone that is truly the standout one. Walking the line between coolly detached and unable to leave, Sanderson allows the audience to feel every moment of her stage pacing and hunger for the truth.
The set is sparse, and works a treat in the wonderfully compact Lace Market Theatre, and leaves all eyes on the performances themselves which are far above what one can normally expect from an amateur production.
And that is the real key to what Agnes of God is about. Taking a wonderfully intimate story and creating an atmosphere in which it is left to breathe free of any unnecessary gimmicks, you genuinely forget that you are inside a small theatre on a weekday evening, but instead are wholly absorbed in something much more profound.
Inspirational, immersive and ponderous, this performance will appeal to everyone from postmodern purists to casual observers. At the heart of the stage is the desire to be moved by a story, and what Agnes of God leaves you is a state of contemplation and reflection. Achingly melancholy, and a must see.