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Review: Testament, at Hope Theatre

Exploration of religion, identity and mental instability, set in a surreal context, is a touching and memorable experience

23 May, 2019 — By ERIN COBBY

Nicholas Shalebridge as Max in Testament

A COMPELLING exploration of grief and guilt, Testament also examines the roles religion and identity can play when trying to piece a life back together.

The audience descend with Max (Nicholas Shalebridge) into his own delirium, propelled by the swelling on his brain after a failed suicide attempt that followed the death of his girlfriend Tess (Jessica Frances).

Despite the seriousness of the situation, however, Max’s imagination often conjures hilarious images, such as that of the over-confident Messiah (David Angland). These comical apparitions are best exemplified by outstanding use of ensemble when portraying “a night out with the lads”.

Sam Edmund’s sparing but excellent use of contemporary reference, Hercules and Gladiator, is inspired, culminating in the creation of one of the most sinister characters portrayed on stage: intimidating-toilet-attendant-turned-Lucifer (Daniel Leadbitter).

The composition of masculinity is delicately explored and woven into more overt topics such as religious inconsistencies.

The subtlety of the piece is masterful, allowing the audience to contemplate complex questions concerning mental instability, instead of having the play’s agenda forced upon them.

The moveable set encourages the view of the fragility of the mental state, while poignant lighting helps guide the audience through the overlapping scenes of reality and unreality.

Despite the surreal context, the naturalistic acting, especially that by brother Chris (William Shackleton), is exemplary.

Combining excellent direction and a refreshing take on a heavy subject matter, Testament is a touching and memorable experience, the latest in an impressive season at the Hope Theatre.

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