Review: Doubt - Chichester Festival Theatre has lost none of its edge

Doubt: A Parable, Chichester Festival Theatre, until 5 February

Sam Spruell and Monica Dolan - Photo Johan Persson
Sam Spruell and Monica Dolan - Photo Johan Persson

Without doubt, this new production is simply brilliant.

Complex, intelligent and utterly compelling, on every level this story of a battle of wills and values at a 1960s New York school keeps you on the edge of your festival theatre seat from the start.

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What a coup to have Monica Dolan's mesmerising portrayal of Sister Aloysius Beauvier as the principal of this Catholic establishment - a woman of rigid traditional principles who is not afraid to risk everything to protect a young pupil.

She is convinced that basketball-playing priest and teacher Father Brendan Flynn (Sam Spruell) has more than a paternalistic interest in St. Nicholas’s first African-American male student.

But is she right - has there been sexual misconduct by Father Flynn or is she simply convincing herself because she fundamentally disagrees with his more liberal approach to education?

Overlaying this critical question is the whole nature of faith and doubt and a religious concept.

Every word from this pristine script is delivered not just with conviction but extraordinary power.

This is a remarkable tour de force - and proof positive that after two years of covid that the Chichester Festival Theatre has lost none of its edge.