THE life of his aunt, who as a Catholic nun ran a women's refuge centre in New York, has provided the inspiration for the debut drama by up and coming playwright Brian Mullin.
We Wait In Joyful Hope is a frank and humorous portrayal of modern feminism, friendship and an extraordinary woman, who just so happens to be a nun.
Sister Bernie D’Amato, now in the twilight of her life, has, for the past 40 years been running a women’s refuge centre in a New Jersey slum.
Helping the poor and homeless, she’s won battles with priests, police and even gang leaders.
But now she’s facing her biggest threat yet - that of property developers who are buying up the neighbourhood.
It is up to Sister Bernie to save the centre from closure in order to continue the work of her mission.
Staged at Theatre503 from next week for a four-week run, Brian's exploration of religion and capitalism in contemporary America was chosen from the Battersea theatre’s Writer in Residence programme.
For Brian, an American born playwright who studied at Goldsmiths and is now based in Brixton it is a dream come true.
“If it wasn’t for my aunt I wouldn’t have written the play, but it is all thanks to Theatre503 that it’s come to the stage,” he tells me.
“I was so lucky to have been chosen as one of five writers for their new writer's programme, but for it to be my play that was chosen to be staged is amazing.
“The team here is fantastic, really supportive and this programme enables new writers to get a platform for their work. It also gives them a chance to work with professional actors, directors, producers and stage a full-length play - something that is invaluable and really exciting."
He acknowledges that a play about a nun might raise a few eyebrows but he stresses there is plenty in it which will resonate with audiences.
“There are so many themes and issues that people will recognise,” he says. “I live in Brixton and the area is constantly changing - is it regeneration, gentrification and is it good or bad.
"These are issues people in South London are dealing with and ones that Bernie faces in her life too - how developers come in and change an area and the harm it can potentially do. She tries to stop it because she recognises the value of her refuge to the community."
Although he wanted to pay tribute to his aunt and others like her, Brian was also keen to show nuns in a different light and create a central role for an older actress.
"I wanted to pay tribute to the strong women who hold communities together and, in my experience, few women are stronger, more dedicated – and more unsung – than nuns," he says.
"For so long there has been a resistance to portraying nuns as as full human beings or even feminists.
"A lot of people, when they hear about nuns think of the comic like Sister Act or the sentimental like Sound Of Music. But actually nuns are extraordinary women who do amazing things for those who are the forgotten ones in society.
"Sister Bernie is inspired by my aunt but is an amalgamation of various nuns I met and spoke to while I was in the process of writing the play," he ads.
"She is not conventional - she wears a T shirt, smokes and deals with gang leaders. She's also tough, rebellious and, sometimes, hard to deal with, but is inspiring.
"And, even as everything around her seems to be changing, she keeps fighting for the causes she believes in."
And he says that as well it being an emotional journey, the audience will find much humour in the piece.
"I hope people can relate to Bernie and her spirit," he says. "It's very funny and an uplifting story, but it is also quite political because it asks who really stands up for our community - and in this case it's a 70-year-old nun."
We Wait In Joyful Hope is on at Theatre503, The Latchmere, Battersea Park Road between Tuesday, May 17 and Saturday June 11. Visit www.theatre503.com for full listings.