I almost answer Father Farthing when he asks the congregation if women should be allowed to become priests. Then I remember that I never answer questions in church and, of course, that I am in fact not in church.
I’m at Theatre on the Bay and Graham Hopkins is an Irish priest, Father Farley, beloved by his flock. His comfortable position gets threatened when he crosses paths with a passionate young seminarian, Mark Dolson (Clyde Berning).
With a soothing Irish accent Hopkins is most convincing as a gentle yet yellow-bellied pastor. Seen later this month in Tuesdays with Morrie (also at Theatre on the Bay) Hopkins completely masters the space. While the set was more than adequate it was his voice which indicated the change of location and ambience. And rising to the challenge, Berling held his own, using different tones of voice to add depth to his pronouncements. And by breaking his voice ever so slightly Berning gives his otherwise fiery character a sense of vulnerability that no words in a script could have imbued.
What makes Mass Appeal so… appealing, is that it does not lose sight of its story. It could have easily become a vehicle for mudslinging at religion in general and the Catholic Church in particular. The story steers clear of blasphemy while challenging one’s thinking but not one’s beliefs. At the same time it also does not try to convert. In short, regardless of religion, Mass Appeal is for people who like their humour with a dash of thought-provoking wit and drama.
By Jana van Heerden
Mass Appeal is on at the Theatre on the Bay until 21 May 2011.