The play opens in a dark wood where Dan, a very 21st century teenager, is looking for his girlfriend. Instead, he finds himself in the company of a mysterious Doctor who invites him to do a little time travelling. What, you may well ask, has all this got to do with a pious French nun who died of TB, aged 24, over 100 years ago? This is the question that the play sets out to explore.
The first act tells the story of Thérèse’s life from her birth to her entry into the Carmelite convent, aged 15.
In the second act, we see Thérèse move from being a precocious teenager with dreams of becoming a kind of holy celebrity, like Joan of Arc, to a life of authentic holiness built on love and service. Opening with some splendid demons (“This is hell … we don’t do gratitude”), it moves into an exploration of the struggle between good and evil and the role of prayer in challenging evil.
Author Léone Caldecott’s “Thérèsean Mystery Play” is well written and well structured, although it was, perhaps, slightly too long. Personally, I would have condensed the part about Theresa’s early life, which would probably be well known already to the largely Catholic audience. Individual performances were of a high standard, although the acoustics meant that it was occasionally difficult to hear some of the cast.
Whilst the play is aimed primarily at Catholic audiences, it may also be of interest to others who want to know more about the life and spirituality of St Thérèse of Lisieux. Take a cushion.