Who doesn’t love being greeted by a tap-dancing nun-in-drag?

Sister Mary McArthur’s Big Sunday Night Show is a compilation of variety acts sewn together by our Sister compare. The show is being held at the Cockpit Theatre, a surprisingly adequate space considers the small, tucked-away exterior. It is clear that the theatre space is predominantly used for shows with high intensity; the space seems to have an air of drama that looms in the large open space. However, it is interesting that the theatre want to emphasise the variety that the venue can offer, pumping a little more fun and a sense of the unexpected into the venue.

Sister Mary (Tim McArthur)  actually says at one point that she thinks “variety is missing in our culture.” Although this can be somewhat debated with things like Britain’s Got Talent, or even within the theatre  invariety shows such as Sunday Night at the Palladium, the sense of welcoming back performances for everyone is really welcoming and I appreciate the intent behind this. I do however think for this kind of show, that perhaps another venue might have been more suitable. The Cockpit seems to be able to support a large amount of performers, whereas most of the acts had no more than two people who seemed relatively stationary (with exceptions).

Sister Mary bursts onto the stage with bags of energy, but without overwhelming the audience. With hosting variety, a certain level of audience participation comes into play. Sister Mary handles this well by talking comfortably with the audience and involving everyone. Some things were almost so awkward that it circled right back round to being completely acceptable: all singing ‘Under the Sea’, for example, whilst several audience members acted out a tableau of an underwater scene.

As for the acts themselves – well, this is where the show could do with a little more consistency. Although I enjoyed all of the acts on their own, I feel as though the line between amateur performances made of people who do this as a hobby (and rightly so!) was blurred with some professional acts which you can tell had been prepared over a number of years. I think it is great for people to involve elements of performance and theatre into their lives whatever their ability, but I think if there was more consistency between the level of performance then it may have been a little easier to gauge.

I absolutely adored Natural Voices, a community group of women who regularly meet to sing together. It’s so warming to know that people take their passion so seriously, and I thought the harmonies were very imaginative and beautiful. It also has to be mentioned that Vinegar Strokes’ voice had such a divine tone.

I fell completely in love with what some might call a ‘marmite performance’ by the Twins Macabre (Nic Lamont and Adam Rhys-Davies). The piece they performed was daring and exciting, and I couldn’t take my eyes off them. There was never any way to predict the outcome of their sketches, and it was a thrill to watch. They pulled the piece off expertly and I am honestly a huge fan. These two are an act to follow, watch this space!

The thing I really appreciated about this show is that they are giving things a go. Some things worked, some things didn’t, but everyone gave it they all and after all, if things aren’t tried out then how do we develop and grow? I really enjoy the fact that Sister Mary is trying to reintroduce the small sketches and acts back into theatre, and it’s charmingly comforting to see the drive and passion that lives within so many people to come together using theatre.

Sister Mary McArthur’s Sunday Night Show is playing at the Cockpit Theatre until 1 November . For more information and tickets, seeThe Cockpit Theatre