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Saturday, October 22, 2016
Oxford prepares for Relics visit with play at Oxford Oratory
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Therese meets Pope
The relics of St Therese will be welcomed to Oxford on Wednesday  with a peal of bells from the Anglican church of St Giles, opposite the Oxford Oratory, and a few yards from the  Martyrs Memorial at the heart of Protestant Oxford. The church has offered use of its hall and facilities to those visiting the relics at  the Oratory church of St Aloysius.

Photographs of Therese will be projected outside the church as she arrives. Therese of Lisieux wrote eight plays and took the lead in five of these performed  as recreation in  the Carmel so it was apt that Oxford parishioners decided to stage a theatrical extravaganza in preparation for the  visit of her relics to the Oratory.

Performed over three days.,including Therese's' Feast  on 1 October, all performances were sold out.

Divine Comedy - A Theresian Mystery Play, complete with devils and angels locked in battle with twirling banners, and a cast of 55  was written by Leonie Caldicott. Her daughter, Tessa, directed this  ambitious project  incorporating an updated  version of Dante's Divine Comedy and a time travelling female doctor, complete with Dr Who-like scarf, who takes Dan and Bea back to 1873 showing them the life of Therese of Lisieux. and her message for today. Devised as a modern version of a mystery play  all parts of the church were used. Photographs of Therese were illuminated onto  the exterior of the church before and after the production.

Professional lighting was on hand from parishioner Ashley Bale of the Oxford Playhouse, whose wife played Therese's mother, Zelie Martin and their children took part too.

Parish priest Fr Daniel Seward skilfully played Therese's father with pathos, revealing hidden acting talent He had even grown long side burns for the part. Oratorian  Fr Dominic Jakob, was  a benevolent Pope Leo X111, and Fr Richard Duffield  played Monsignor Reverony with aplomb. An interesting interjection was the appearance of Cardinal Newman by Fr Jerome Bertram  carrying his Apologia. Clare Coggins brought intensity and vibrancy as  the older of three actresses playing Therese and conveyed her sense of fun.

A Dominican and a Franciscan played other clergy.  A Carmelite nun from Wolverhampton ,present on the opening night, said that the second half portrayed life in the Carmel very well and added that her convent  had supplied the nuns' habits.

Fr Michael McGoldrick, Discalced Carmelite Superior in this country, thought that the play was a wonderful introduction  to Therese and  said  that it would be “great”  if it could be reprised  in London.

“It was wonderful that all the generations were involved from young children to a lady in her eighties”, he said.

The childrens' matinee performance   starred an extra cast member -a dog called Truffle- as the young Therese's pet dog   and stole the show !

For further information on the visit of the relics to Oxford visit

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Tags: Clare Coggins, Divine Comedy - A Theresian Mystery Play, Fr Daniel Seward, Fr Jerome Bertram, Leonie Caldicott, Oxford Playhouse

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