Views & Reviews Review of the Week

Nun the wiser

BMJ 2011; 343 doi: (Published 02 November 2011) Cite this as: BMJ 2011;343:d7007
  1. Colin Douglas, author and retired geriatrician
  1. drcolintcurrie{at}

A play based on a longitudinal study of ageing and dementia in Scottish nuns doesn’t quite hit the mark for Colin Douglas

The year is 2006, the setting is a little convent in the west of Scotland, and the aim of this play is to make high drama out of convent life and dementia research—a bit of a challenge, you might be forgiven for thinking. A community of nuns (n=27, hence the title of this play, 27) inhabits a distinctly custodial slabby grey set, and is visited by researchers from a US-UK collaboration seeking to extend an established and highly regarded project.

As in most religious orders, members are ageing and numbers falling. Quickly we get to know Sister Miriam, the mother superior, who is erudite, pious, crisp, and no longer young; Ursula, her likely successor, less polished and still middle aged; and their latest recruit—the first in 14 years—Audrey, a wild child fleeing a chaotic upbringing and still very much on probation. Name checks, eccentricities, and reported mishaps, such as cooking disasters, sketch in an offstage, non-singing chorus of nuns who …

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