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Se[tember 2008
'Bonavanture' by Charlotte Hastings

By Sue Lupton - Friday, September 19th, 2008
(reproduced by kind permission of
the Isle of Wight County Press)

COWES Amateur Operatic and Dramatic Society (CAODS) presented an unusual play in an unusual venue last week.
The play was Bonaventure by Charlotte Hastings, and the venue was St Mary’s Church, Cowes. The director was Jane MacLean.
The play is set in a nursing convent in the fen country, where the nuns and nurses provide shelter for people stranded by a flood.
Among them are a pair of prison officers escorting a prisoner on her way to be hanged for murder in Norwich.

The prisoner, Sarat Carn, is an artist who has been convicted of poisoning her brother. Sarat, played by Carole French, is bewildered, tormented and aloof. The audience is kept guessing whether she is guilty or not.

However, Sister Bonaventure, played by Maggi Pearman-Taylor, is convinced Sarat is innocent and becomes determined to unravel the mystery, against the wishes of the stern Mother Superior (Dinah Bowman).

The story unfolds rather slowly during the first four scenes, before suddenly gaining pace in the last few minutes.

Sister Bonaventure eventually discovers a connection between the suave Dr Jeffreys (John English), who had posed as Sarat’s friend, and a woman whose death had been caused by Sarat’s brother. As the police arrive, the real murderer confesses.

The play was first performed in the West End in 1949 and became a film, Thunder On The Hill, in 1951.

Nearly 60 years later, the CAODS cast were enthusiastic and well-rehearsed, apart from one or two fluffed lines.

However, I didn’t feel the play had aged well, as pace and suspense were lacking. Also disappointing was the fact members of the audience seated further back in the church had some problems seeing and hearing at times.

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