The Secret Wives of Andy Williams

The Secret Wives of Andy Williams is an enjoyable hour of theatre that is occasionally funny and often moving, with plenty of eccentricity to keep things interesting.

The themes of love and sacrifice are couched in such a way that, rather than feeling timeless, they feel very much rooted to the specific context of being a young working class nun in the 1960s.

It follows the story of Caitlin, a novice nun in the 1960s, who has been moved to a new nunnery after her love for her best friend threw her calling into doubt. She decides who she really wants to be, and along the way she meets troubled orphans and some highly eccentric nuns, one of whom has a dark secret.

Sadie Hasler, who both wrote and acted in the play, is definitely the highlight. Her script is strong, particularly when she delivers her own lines. She expresses the cast-iron restraint and warmth of her protagonist, Sister Mabel Matthew, and in doing so delivers some of the most moving sections of the play. She is also very strong in her secondary roles, switching adeptly between them with comic speed. The rest of the cast shows a similar versatility and energy. However, although they present an engaging ensemble, they do not quite have Hasler's power of lifting the script.

The story is simple and familiar and although the play was written in the last few years, it feels very dated. The setting, of course, contributes to this, but the themes of love and sacrifice are couched in such a way that, rather than feeling timeless, they feel very much rooted to the specific context of being a young working class nun in the 1960s. Perhaps this is because for most people, the decision to go off and become a nun is so far from their everyday experience. Within the story, this is presented as a completely normal life choice, rather than the act of great magnitude that it seems to a modern audience. As a result, it was difficult to engage with on a personal level. Still, this is a well-executed piece of comedy theatre with some very strong moments.

Reviews by Grace Knight

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Performances

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The Blurb

By Sadie Hasler. ‘Superb’ (Edinburgh Evening News). Set in the 60s and seen through the eyes of a novice nun, this dark comedy about orphans, death and a 60s crooner explores love, sisterhood and what it means to be a woman. The Edinburgh debut from critically acclaimed Old Trunk. ‘Making waves’ (Sunday Times Magazine). ‘Proof that British Fringe theatre should be cherished’ (Jenny Eclair). Directed by Sarah Mayhew. ‘Inspired’ (FringeReview.co.uk).

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