Doubt, theatre review: Slickly efficient study of abuse doesn't leave much doubt

No doubt: Jo Martin in Doubt: Paul Nicholas Dyke
No doubt: Jo Martin in Doubt: Paul Nicholas Dyke

John Patrick Shanley’s examination of sexual abuse in the Catholic church is a prime example of a play that absolutely found its moment, premiering off-Broadway in 2004 before sweeping unstoppably on to win the following year’s Pulitzer and Tony Awards.

Now the eye - although not the ramifications - of that particular storm has passed, Doubt looks a little slight.

It’s a slickly efficient, 90-minute four-hander that has absolutely no fat on it. Not a line is wasted as we arrive at a school in the Bronx in 1964, where fierce principal Sister Aloysius (Stella Gonet) frets over the (too?) close relationship between parish priest Father Flynn (Jonathan Chambers) and ‘our first negro student’. Enthusiastic young Sister James (Clare Latham, impressive) is caught in the crossfire.

Like the piece itself, Chè Walker’s production is also slickly efficient, without ever sparking into thrilling life. We long for the action to be opened up and fleshed out, and for some greater sense of the time and place, and the import of both, to be offered. I was also not left in very much doubt, which seems somewhat counter-intuitive.

Until Sept 30, Southwark Playhouse;