The Condition Of The Virgin

Note: This review is from 2001

Review by Steve Bennett

Boothby Graffoe's first play is an enjoyable, offbeat and slightly otherworldly affair - a twisting shaggy dog story with a disconcertingly surreal edge.

It's not rib-crackingly funny - though there is plenty of nice verbal sparring - nor a deeply moving piece of drama, but it does prove a highly watchable diversion, with an interestingly off-kilter theme.

This surprising, and sometimes downright weird, plot takes place in a church in some Irish backwater, inviting inevitable, but wrong, comparisons with Father Ted.

True, the lead character is an amiable Irish priest with a more naïve sidekick (in this case a Welsh gravedigger), but that's where the similarities end.

This is more paranormal affair, with a statue of the Virgin Mary which inexplicably becomes pregnant, a strangely persuasive cub reporter and a local crackpot who died in a bizarre tree-falling accident all taking their role in the unfolding story, which continually wrong-foots the audience with its genuinely unexpected twists.

All the characters are well realised, thanks in no small part to the impressive cast, which ensures these strange supernatural occurrences seem at least partly plausible.

Often plays by comics have feel more like stand-up routines than theatre, but this debut deftly avoids that trap. It's almost certainly not what you'd expect, but it won't disappoint.

Review date: 1 Jan 2001
Reviewed by: Steve Bennett

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