Pater Noster (which translates to the Lord’s Prayer) asks for strength during the coming day, and for forgiveness of sin and temptation. This is a sentiment seemingly absent from Francesca Caruso’s production of the absurdist, yet touchingly reflective, play Pater Noster. Instead, the show inquires into the meaning of religious symbols and rituals, and (perhaps most refreshingly) how a stridently Catholic upbringing can affect a belief that is supposed to be devout.
Pater Noster tells the story of a Catholic monk (played by Caruso herself) who, whilst attempting to stay true to his faith, continues yielding to desire and finding himself in difficult situations, both practically and spiritually. The play is inspired by French farce drama, which has clearly influenced its comedy in mockery and satire. In Caruso’s production, the comedy comes from unexpected places as religious ideas are presented and parodied; early on in the production, a contemplating furrowing of the forehead whilst reading the Bible turns into a stifling yawn.
As is typical of the style, the performance is silent throughout – apart from a very enthusiastic choir singing a rendition of ‘Symphony of a Thousand’. However, this does not mean that the production is devoid of characterisation. Caruso’s animated expressions and carefully considered physicalities delivers the story of a character aware of the limitations that his faith allows, yet still looking to push beyond them, perfectly.
Primarily exploring how social influences alter your relationship with spirituality (a theme inspired by Caruso’s own childhood in a devoutly Catholic lifestyle and household), the play draws on personal experiences to deliver a series of questioning moments using the iconography of Catholicism, such as a cross, a bible, and a communion wafer. The use of such standard imagery does leave me wanting to see a wider variety of sourcing that is a little more specific to a Catholic upbringing.
Pater Noster is a captivating and intriguing piece, with clear potential and a style and tone which certainly left me wanting to see more. The humour is baked into the story in an organic and natural way, with elements of drama and reflection being the sole focus. I’d be interested in watching it again with someone who is Catholic in the audience; I wonder how they would respond to the combination of comedy and calvary. In the meantime, Caruso’s work is a refreshing and original piece of theatre where I learned that watching a Monk down a glass of the blood of Christ, like a university student at a house party, is nothing short of hilarious.
Words by Mischa Alexander.
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