Seminary – The New Theatre, Dublin

Reviewer: Kate Feehily

Writer: Stewart Shields

Director: Darragh Feehely

If you were expecting priests, piety, and prayers, you would be sorely mistaken. This seminary is more like a raging frat house, filled with secret blunts, hangovers and rosary reciting competitions. We meet Peter on the hunt for a job, mostly in vain. This is the first character of many for Stewart Shields during this one-man show, which he also wrote. A mistaken application leads Peter to a rural seminary, where he finds himself training for a life in the priesthood.

Peter’s first term in the seminary revolves mainly around the Pat Kenny award (“not that Pat Kenny”, we’re assured), a priest-of-the-month kind of situation. Amidst the competitive whirlwind, we are met with an eclectic ensemble of characters. From Alby, a priest who sells naked yoga videos on the side, to Martin, a “goblin” like man who perpetually looks like he’s just sucked on a lemon. The colourful characters are in abundance. Shields fluidly swaps between hunched postures, rural accents and electric personalities. Shields’ is a versatile and charismatic performer who will undoubtedly grab your attention.

Alongside the engaging performance, Éimhín O’Connor’s lighting design deserves a special mention. In the intimate blackbox space, Seminary opts for a minimal set. I was initially concerned by the bare space, but the subtle set allows O’Connor’s lights to truly shine (pardon the pun). O’Connor evokes physical locations as polar as dance floors and church halls, but also highlights the rising tensions when the seminary’s secrets begin to unfold. If you ask me, a lighting rig with both a crucifix and a disco ball is an immediate win.

Shields’ writing is clever and at points hilarious. The premise of a seminary alone is an exciting idea for a comedy show. However, I don’t think the script holds up for a full sixty minutes. After his dole is cut off, Peter realises his “vacation” application was really a “vocation” one instead he finds himself joining the priesthood. And so he stays … for some reason. After receiving an email invite to join the seminary, Peter reasons “Sure, what the fuck else am I doing?” This may seem like nit-picking, but this issue persists throughout the show. The plot is driven forward, often with a lack of drive or reason on the part of Peter and his peers. Furthermore, when the play broaches the issue of the church’s abuses I was left feeling unsatisfied. The time given to this tricky topic felt disingenuous and was put to bed nearly as soon as it was brought up.

Despite its narrative flaws, Seminary is a more than enjoyable way to spend an evening. Packed full of belly laughs and jaw dropping shocks, you’re guaranteed to have a fun night with this show.

Runs Until 29th June 2024.

The Review's Hub Score

Irreverently funny

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The Reviews Hub - Ireland

The Ireland team is currently under the editorship of Laura Marriott. The Reviews Hub was set up in 2007. Our mission is to provide the most in-depth, nationwide arts coverage online.

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