The Devil of the Second Stairs

The Devil of the Second Stairs

Presbyterian Ladies' College, Perth. 

By George Herman. Directed by Carli Edwards. Hazel Day Drama Centre, Presbyterian Ladies' College, Perth. Mar 21-23. 2024

Horror is an unusual genre for theatre, especially for youth theatre, and even more for a girls’ school, but this young cast from Presbyterian Ladies' College appeared to be relishing the opportunity to perform The Devil of the Second Stairs, set in an isolated convent in the United States during the 1960s. 

Played against the background of Vatican II, a time of turmoil in the Catholic Church, the nuns in the story are facing the challenges of merging old and new belief and world view - and these young actresses appeared to understand the struggle and upset.

Set design by Chad Wetton, Jordy Andrews, Ffion Nutter, and Onstage Arts, was beautiful and gave us a wonderful sense of place, while Chad Wetton’s lighting design and the audio-visual design of Oliver Craze and Carli Edwards added wonderful atmosphere - with top-notch effects. Kate Nightingale's costumes - mostly sisters' habits of this transitional era, were appropriate and well finished.

Very much an ensemble piece, these young women worked very well as a team, establishing believable relationships and hierarchy. The characterisation and physicality of the sisters was very believable - although this sometimes meant the vocal delivery was a little too soft and the pace a little too gentle.

Molly Crawley gave a strong performance as Mother Margaret, playing this troubled leader with conviction and depth. Adversary of sorts was Charly Stephen’s Sister Monica, of old school beliefs, played with layers. Tiami Bachofen Von Echt brought warmth to Sister Janet - from a very different background.

Lovely focus from Claire Trainor, as Sister Judith, a dead nun, suddenly come to life, while Maddie Towner filled the interesting roles of John and ‘The Apparition’ in steady, well drawn performance.

The show ran smoothly under the leadership of student Stage Manager Daniella Capelle, and a student crew.

Wonderful to see such a different show, and to see a challenging play well handled by a young cast and crew. PLC should be proud of their students.

Kimberley Shaw