Review: Testament

4 star rating
Energetic performances, innovative staging and absurdist elements combine productively in an intelligently constructed work about the impact of brain damage on memories and decisions.
Testament at Hope Theatre

Image: Hope Theatre


Theatre: Hope Theatre

Closes here: Monday 29 October 2018

Author:
Sam Edmunds

Director:
Sam Edmunds, William Harrison

Cast:

Max - Nick Young

Tess - Hannah Benson

Chris - William Shackleton

Doctor - Jensen Gray

Jesus - David Angland

Lucifer - Daniel Leadbitter


Synopsis


In the beginning God created the heavens and earth and … Max!


Max is in a car crash with his brother and his girlfriend Tess, who dies in the accident.


Following the loss of his girlfriend, he tries to commit suicide and fails, but when he wakes up, he believes she is still alive, leaving him left questioning what happened to Tess.


Answers appear as apparitions of modernised biblical characters, aiding Max in his discovery or tempting him away.


His only hope of recovery lies in the hands of his brother Chris.


Testament is an award-winning play exploring how humans deal with grief and how it effects those around them, exploring suicide, loss and guilt.


Inviting you into the mind of a car crash survivor as he tries to piece together his fractured memories - exploring the fragmented and nonlinear process of our memories and how trauma can affect this.


ActDrop reviews


Peter Brown

Performance date: Monday 22 October 2018
Review star rating image for 3 stars

Science has allowed great strides to be made in our understanding of just how the human brain works.


It's a complex organ that takes care of a huge range of tasks - some essential to sustain life and some that allow us to reach beyond the real through our imaginations.


But when a brain gets damaged, the results can be life-threatening, and reality can get mashed-up with fragmented memories rendering us incapable of rational thought and decision-making.


Running in the Sunday/ Monday slots at Islington's Hope Theatre, Testament actually covers rather more ground than merely the effects on a person's life when his brain is damaged, because the play sets up a series of events that combine to create a crisis in a young man's life.


Max has been in a car crash with his brother and his girlfriend, who has died in the accident.


Unable to cope with his grief, Max tries to commit suicide and fails, but is left with life-threatening injuries which need urgent medical intervention to relieve the damaging pressure building inside his brain.


Confronted by partial loss and entanglement of his memories and knowledge, Max is growing more and more incapable of giving the necessary consent for the vital operation he needs to survive.


It's this tortuous situation, with Max steadily declining into incapacity and his brother left to cope and deal with the outcome, that forms the basic plot of the drama.


Though the acting area at the Hope is fairly small, it doesn't confine Chalk Line Theatre's innovative production which manages to incorporate a full-sized hospital bed into the staging equation.


The bed also cleverly supports a neat trick where Max is sucked right into it as if entering some underworld.


And a sizeable acting team of 6 also find ample space to define both real characters - like Jensen Gray's down-to-earth doctor - and imaginary ones - like David Angland's playfully witty Jesus who bears the hallmarks of a game show host rather than a sombre religious icon.


In fact, we find both Jesus and his counterpart, Lucifer, fetching-up in proceedings.


That nudges this venture into the realms of the absurd, though it doesn't actually feel like a full-blown absurdist play since it involves a realistic situation that highlights important considerations about what happens when someone has lost the ability to make decisions.


Directing his own play, Sam Edmunds blends physicality and ample energy in what is a pacy production, that sometimes even borders on the frantic.


However, Mr Edmunds keeps a tight reign on both action and characterisations, and suitably avoids any trace of sentimentality or mawkishness, even if the set-up might justify a modicum of either during its course.


Testament doesn't offer anything particularly new about how our brains work or much in the way of revelations about how others are left to make onerous decisions on our behalf when our own brains are incapable of doing so logically.


On the other hand, the play is an intelligently constructed work that provides sufficient food for thought presented through highly watchable performances in an inventive and absorbing - and entertaining - way.



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