Set in 1964, the play centres around conservative school principal Sister Aloysius who suspects progressive priest Father Flynn of improper conduct with the school’s first black student. Aloysius enlists the young and inexperienced Sister James to help her uncover evidence of impropriety. Sister James reports that the boy was called to a private meeting with Father Flynn and that she smells alcohol on his breath when he returns. Sister Aloysius then meets with the boy’s mother, who is unwilling to address the issue and simply concerned with getting her son through to high school. Sister Aloysius then resorts to deceit in order to confront Father Flynn and force him to admit his guilt. At a later point however, these actions cause her to doubt her own beliefs.
What the Armchair Critics Thought:
This discussion took place at our annual BBQ, and mast of us had chosen to watch the film version rather than read the play. In both forms, however, the events of the play are deliberately ambiguous and the lack of clear evidence creates the basis for further deliberation by the audience. The key point of the play is “can you take action when you are not sure?” The play is set in a time when great changes were occurring in the Catholic Church, the civil rights movement and in the role of women. The audience is intended to question the motives of the characters. This play was written shortly after the US invasion of Iraq and the weapons of mass destruction issue. We trust those with power and authority to be honest and when they deceive us, they shake our faith.