The nun called James

This week my belief that there is always a new corner of Cape Town to be explored was once again confirmed, this time by a rather rude and obnoxious nun. I came across said nun though a serious of clicking on random Twitter mentions on my timeline. Her name is Sister Mary James or as his disapproving deceased mother used to call him, James.


Sister Mary James is the nun-in-drag alter ego of James Costello. Both are loud, crass and spontaneous but only one wears a habit. On entering one of the ‘creative spaces’ at Fabrik8 in Observatory we were loud greeted by Costello before I was introduced to the whole room as Captain Jana. I take titles very seriously, especially one given by a stand-up drag queen, so I promptly started drinking like a sailor.


My mission was made even easier with the ice-lollies being spiked! The devilish delights were sponsored by Las Paletas, makers of gourmet artisanal ice lollies. (I did feel rather dirty typing those hippy terms, but to taste them is to accept their hipster origins). We came across Las Paletas’ alcoholic range of lollies at Ramfest this year and even though it was a cold night, the Mojito-on-a-stick took us right to the beach. However, this had nothing on the (sadly non-alcoholic) guava cheesecake lolly made from real cream cheese and guava. I swiftly gobbled up my 2 allotted lollies and would have stolen a third had I not been terrified of the possibility of Sister Mary James dragging me to a confessional.

Las Paletas

Like all stand-up comedians, Sister Mary James does not let go once she has your scent. The show was largely -improvised and the demented nun drew most of her laughs from the audience. And what a crowd it was, they made it all too easy for her. My cynical side is not convinced that two people would go to a drag stand-up gig for their first date, or that an excessively thin woman in thigh high boots and a mini dress would keep standing up in the front row to go to the bathroom or that there is a gay guy called Sven who is a rep for Cadbury. However, the combination of these people in one room lead to a perfect storm of comedy stirred on by Sister Mary James.


Sister Mary James’ larger than life persona makes everything extra funny. Well almost everything. I realised that my tolerance and enjoyment of shock comedy ends at any form of rape joke. But that’s how it is with shows like this, it makes one realise that despite seeing oneself as liberal and open to just about anything, there are still lines that can be crossed. That was not the line for other audience members, but it was mine. And there is nothing wrong with that.


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