When David Snowdon embarked on his study of Alzheimer’s, he could not have foreseen the results, nor the book that would subsequently be published and inspire a play ten years later. Using the brains of several deceased nuns, Snowdon concluded that the disease is not inevitable among other remarkable facts. Abi Morgan’s play depicts the relationship between religion and science in these women’s lives and the loss of their sense of self.
When Ursula (Maureen Beattie), the mother superior of a convent, is given the opportunity to participate in a study of dementia, it causes her to contemplate the value of her faith and the cost of embracing science. The convent is visited by Dr Garfield (Nicholas Le Provest) and his team each year and a union forms that will alter the remainder of their lives.
After the success of Dunsinane last season, the Lyceum is collaborating again with the National Theatre of Scotland. Expect a bold script from Morgan (her credits include BBC One show The Hour and upcoming film The Iron Lady) and fiery performances from an accomplished cast. The play – like Snowdon’s book – focuses as much on the individuals’ stories as the overarching subject matter, attempting to humanise and confront the conflict between their spiritual beliefs and scientific fact. Science and spirituality are two things which rarely seem to walk hand in hand in our society, but the characters within Morgan’s text will explore this relationship. Whatever your standing on religion, science, ageing and disease is, 27 will surely challenge it.