Saturday, March 28th, 2015

A DAVID versus Goliath story comes to the fore at the Old Mill Theatre this April as a group of nuns try to save their convent from demolition and being turned into a housing estate.

Written and directed by prolific Perth playwright Noel O’Neill, Hail Mary is an irreverent comedy about some unconventional nuns who discover their Swan Valley convent is to be sold because of its high operating costs.

A young nun with a vivid imagination insists she has seen the Virgin Mary walking on the convent roof, inspiring the nuns to proclaim the convent a holy place.

Visitors flock to the convent and the spin-off from selling the nuns’ home-made wine and bread soon helps to raise money.

The Archbishop hurries to find out what’s going on and, although initially suspicious, concedes the money-making efforts do not contravene any Christian principles.

“I really have no idea where half of my ideas come from,” O’Neill, who also plays Father Costello, said. “I wanted to do something comedic about nuns.

“I do have great respect for those who devote their lives to one religious order or another but my comedic side allowed me to indulge in a little fun, hopefully without being too offensive.”

Born in Ireland, O’Neill moved to New York in his late teens and studied acting with Lee Strasberg and Herbert Berghof, appearing in many off-Broadway productions including One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest and Of Mice and Men.

Since moving to Perth 14 years ago, he has appeared on stage and directed and written numerous shows for the Old Mill and KADS Theatres, Graduate Dramatic Society and Irish Theatre Players.

O’Neill has won numerous awards for writing and directing and currently lectures for the WA Academy of Performing Arts and Perth Actors’ Collective.

With Hail Mary, he says the convent is fictional and the challenge is to put an enormous amount of energy into each character he has created.

“To assist me in directing, I have Valerie Dragojevic who directed my script It’s All Greek to Me last year, and Caroline McDonnell, who assisted me with The Big Casino, also in 2014,” O’Neill said.

“Given their skill in helping to bring my works to life, I’m in safe hands.”

Hail Mary plays at 8pm April 10, 11, 15, 16, 17, 18, 22, 23 and 24 with a 2pm matinee April 19. Tickets are $25, $20 concession – book at  or on (08) 9367 8719.

It is the second show in a year of all-Australian plays at the Old Mill Theatre to commemorate the centenary of the Gallipoli landing in 2015.

The heritage-listed Old Mill Theatre is on the corner of Mends Street and Mill Point Road, South Perth (opposite the Windsor Hotel and Australia Post).



hail1: Julia Trefeli, left, Valerie Dragojevic, Norma Davis, Vivienne Marshall, Caroline McDonell and Jesse McGinn all play nuns in the world premiere of the comedy Hail Mary.

hail2: Sister Marilyn (Julia Trefeli, left), Sister Vinnie (Valerie Dragojevic) and Mother Superior (Norma Davis) rally to save their convent in Hail Mary.

hail3: Sister Abbott (Caroline McDonnell, left), Sister Rosa (Jesse McGinn) and Sister Francis (Vivienne Marshall) are some of the unconventional nuns in Hail Mary.

hail4: Archbishop Monticello (Rex Gray, left) and Father Costello (Noel O’Neill – also writer and director of the play) share a liquid blessing.

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Old Mill Theatre

South Perth's Old Mill Theatre is fortunate to be operating out of one of the most historic buildings in South Perth. It was opened in 1899 as a Mechanics' Institute Hall. The South Perth Council purchased the building in 1913 and renamed it the Mends Street Hall. The council still owns the building, and supports our use of it.

The building first became a home of theatre in 1948, when the South Perth Dramatic Society moved in. The name Old Mill Theatre was first used in 1958, and the company was incorporated in 1959. In 2009, the theatre celebrated its 60th anniversary.

A number of significant changes to the building have occurred over the past few years, with major extensions completed in 2002. An understage tunnel, which links two backstage dressing rooms and enables easier access from one side of the stage to the other, was completed in 2008. Bathroom facilities have also been installed backstage as part of this project, which was wholly self-funded.

The Old Mill Theatre is fortunate to have strong support from its local council, the City of South Perth. The city undertook major renovations to the exterior of the building in 2008 and the theatre is looking better now than ever before.
Noel O’Neill
P: 0419 954 353


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