Belief, trust & moral certainty. Lia Williams directs Doubt revival at Chichester Festival Theatre

Director Lia Williams says that reviving Doubt: A Parable – John Patrick Shanley’s award-winning play – couldn’t be more timely in an era when people face being judged by social media

Doubt , which opens at Chichester Festival Theatre on January 22, sees Monica Dolan’s Sister Aloysius Beauvier clash with idealistic Father Brendan Flynn, played by Sam Spruell.

Set in 1960s New York, Doubt is the gripping portrayal of the clash between two compelling characters. It examines the relationship between the Roman Catholic Church and the community and explores themes of suspected child sexual abuse.

School principal Sister Aloysius Beauvier is wedded to tradition and unafraid to fight for her beliefs, while the basketball-playing priest and teacher Father Brendan Flynn is liberal-minded and charismatic. 

Lia Williams

As mutual suspicion mounts, their actions become an epic battle of wills from which no one will emerge unscathed; but where does the truth lie?

Doubt won the Pulitzer Prize for Drama, a Tony Award for Best Play and later became an Oscar-nominated film.

Williams says: “Human beings feel safe with certainty. 

“Today, especially in the world of social media, to express certainty in any social – political context, is seen as a strength, whereas doubt and uncertainty can seem to be fuzzy, weak-minded or idealistic; without defined borders – a grey area.

“If we condemn, from a place of unwavering certainty, we can feel sure-footed in the patterns of our belief systems and so we don’t need to ask questions. 

“John Patrick Shanley’s play challenges the core of this received thinking and asks us to be open to all sides of an argument.

“This play is a thrilling stand-alone, character-driven story but, for me, it rings a clear bell of warning to us all, right here and now, to stay fundamentally alive to ideas, not to be trapped by our thinking minds, to seek opinions, even ones we don’t like and don’t agree with and to stay open and prepared to learn.

“It’s a stunning opportunity to see superb acting from top class award-winning actors, “ says Williams.

“It’s a play that will have you on the edge of your seat. It’s entertaining, witty and ferocious in its delivery of a razor-sharp text”.

Monica Dolan makes her Chichester debut as Sister Aloysius. Her BAFTA and Olivier Award-winning stage and screen work includes TV’s W1A, Appropriate Adult, A Very English Scandal and Alan Bennett’s Talking Heads.

Recent theatre includes Talking Heads (Bridge Theatre), Appropriate (Donmar Warehouse), All About Eve (West End) and her own play, The B*easts.

Sam Spruell also appears at Chichester for the first time as Father Flynn. He has starred most recently in Doctor Who, The North Water, Small Axe: Mangrove, Liar and Cold Blood. His theatre roles include Iago in Othello (Shakespeare’s Globe) and Clybourne Park (Royal Court).

The cast is completed with Jessica Rhodes as Sister James and Rebecca Scroggs as Mrs Muller.

Lia Williams directing credits include Ashes to Ashes as part of the Harold Pinter Season in the West End. A multi award-winning actor, her recent roles include Wallis Simpson in The Crown plus, on stage, The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie (Donmar Warehouse), The Oresteia and Mary Stuart (Almeida & West End).

Doubt: A Parable runs at the Chichester Festival Theatre from January 22 – February 5.

Leave a Reply