Review: Testament (Via Brooklyn, online)

This interesting play with music by Tristan Bernays takes its inspiration from Bible stories to put four characters from the book in a room together, and gives their stories a contemporary spin.

Directed by Lucy Jane Atkinson and starring Biko Eisen-Martin (Thief), Jessica Giannone (Mary), Cori Hundt (Jane), Doron JéPaul Mitchell (Isaac), and Desiree Rodriguez (Rosetta, the singer and MD), Testament gives voice to Isaac, Lot’s two daughters, and the Impenitent Thief on the Cross.

Rafe Terrizzi’s sparse design has a room dominated by a cross, under which the characters are arranged in a circular formation, as they speak, the camera moves along to hear their story. It has the feel of a therapy group as well as a gathering of the faithful in a Bible reading.

Doron Jepaul Mitchell (Isaac) in Testament

Familiar to church goers and general Bible readers alike, these stories do not necessarily have to be known to viewers of Testament, as the relevant Bible verses are available on screen via to the broadcast and in the digital programme.

The gift of Bernays’s writing is that he makes stories such as Abraham and Isaac relevant to now, and both this story and that of Lot’s daughters (here given the names of Mary and Jane) have elements of parental abuse of authority and physical and mental torture.

The thief is given a family and a back story which made me think of the injustice metered out to Jean Valjean in Les Miserables, being accused of a crime he did not commit, but his anger at the world and the injustice meted out to him feels relevant to the situation of many incarcerated with little chance of appeal.

As a baptised Methodist and a current agnostic, the stories of the Old and New Testament are very familiar to me, but I do not necessarily have that depth of faith that would lead me to think life is navigated by the will of God.

The cast of Testament - Cori Hundt, Jessica Giannone, Desiree Rodriguez, Doron Jepaul Mitchell, and Biko Eisen-Martin

However, I completely understand religious observance and reliance, and that sense of ‘another force’ comes through clearly in this piece, despite showing “the dark side” of the stories we were taught as children. The use of gospel numbers to separate the stories gave a sense of community to the group.

The strongest stories were those of Isaac (given a heartbreaking revelation of the frightened child still within the grown man by Mitchell’s performance), and the Thief (a remarkable evocation of institutional damage from Eisen-Martin).

Making Lot’s daughters Southern belles was distracting, as was the tricks set up to confuse which was which or to emphasise their closeness. The story of an apocalypse which robbed their mother of life and their father of sanity was powerful enough without the gimmicks.

Testament is available until 24 April on a 24 hour rental basis: buy tickets here. The play runs for an hour.

Image credit: Via Brooklyn Co

LouReviews received complimentary access to review Testament.

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