Even as theatre savants go, one would be hard-pressed to easily name a play that so squarely sits not shoulders of an entirely female cast. This isn’t very surprising given that, like many things in history, the theatre was an incredibly misogynistic field with even female roles being fulfilled by male actors (sometimes eunuchs).
If not for this alone, Agnes of God stands out for the additional reason of being one of the even fewer plays that tackles the concept of religion without the ever-present male perspective on the subject.
Of course, it being written by a male playwright, John Pielmeier, may detract a little from that, but the play itself successfully revolves around the three female characters, diverging only to discuss external characters who may have impacted their lives—often female figures as well, and usually of motherly roles.
An interesting view on the matter given the Roman Catholic background of the true incident that inspired the play.
Pitting the innocence of the titular Sister Agnes against the supposed secrets and schemes of Mother Superior Miriam Ruth and the seemingly cold and calculative Doctor Martha Livingstone, the play pans out to be an analogy of how women are often treated in the context of public scrutiny as well as taking a look at the very thin line between innocence and outright naiveté.
With an upcoming performance here in Singapore, Director Sharmila not only leads a strong cast of three female leads but also seeks to distill the essence of the play, something that she believe will broadly apply to audience across any medium: the execution of a classic “whudunnit” murder mystery.
Sharmilla adds that she’s “hoping, that as a society, we see more than just the controversial religious part because, ultimately it’s an interesting murder mystery.”
Given the subject matter of the play, a concern for the crew was the permit to have this performed in Singapore. However, not only was it approved, but the play also received government support, indicating a growing maturity in audience perception.
“ that’s why people fight against censorship so much—it’s because we think that we are sophisticated enough to decide what to watch and I think would take Agnes of God at the crux of what it is, and not something to change the view on religion or as being controversial.”