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Testament by Sam Edmunds at The Hope Theatre | Review

Testament by Sam Edmunds
Testament by Sam Edmunds

There’s much to think about in Testament, where Max (Nick Young) is involved in a road traffic accident, together with his brother Chris (William Shackleton) and his girlfriend Jess (Hannah Benson). Details of the incident are rather sketchy, because the emphasis in the show is on the aftermath of the event, though there are momentary hints of how Chris believes the accident investigation will pan out.

It’s almost impossible to categorise a show like this. There are strong elements of absurdism, partly in Max’s hallucinations, caused by cerebrospinal fluid leakage (the term is explained in the show) sustained in the accident: what the Doctor (Jensen Gray) appears to be saying is that the abnormal is normal in Max’s case, or at least expected. But then there’s Jesus (David Angland) and Lucifer (Daniel Leadbitter), and the scientific approach of the Doctor against the more, well, spiritual guidance of the other two provides a most unsubtle juxtaposition if ever there was one. These versions of these biblical figures are also, it would seem, figments of Max’s imagination – ‘Jesus’ is, in some respects, closer to ‘a very naughty boy’ than ‘the Messiah’ – but the mixed-up thought processes are both hilarious and somewhat harrowing. It is difficult not to feel at least some sympathy for Max’s plight.

There is a slight over-reliance on strobe lighting: while it creates the sort of disorienting effect that Max may be experiencing, when it is used repeatedly, the dramatic effect is somewhat diminished. Although it isn’t in chronological order (usually a bugbear for me), the narrative is carefully put together such that one doesn’t feel the production has been made unnecessarily complicated by jumping around between past and present and back again.

The set is rather simple, and dominated by a bed on wheels, with chairs and other props brought on and off as appropriate: it may well have been easier to have left the props in place, but there are elements of physical theatre in the show, and with limited performance space, the movements would not have been nearly as dynamic. It’s not all doom and gloom – all in all, surprisingly little of it is, taking into consideration a lads’ night out and flashbacks to happier times when Max and Jess had the rest of their lives ahead of them to look forward to.

It verges on melodrama, particularly when Chris irrationally takes the Doctor’s worst-case scenarios to be the most likely outcomes. This Doctor also seems somewhat implausibly unhurried – I’ve come across nurses with that much time and empathy, but not doctors – but I suppose such matters are relatively insignificant given the deeper themes of self-esteem and inner struggles that come to the fore.

Maintaining interest from beginning to end, this is a thoughtful and slick production, and many of the characters have a good rapport with the audience, with a combination of direct eye contact and strong performances from a young cast.

4 stars

Review by Chris Omaweng

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.

The Hope Theatre
207 Upper Street
Islington, London N1 1RL
Testament
Booking to 29th October 2018
http://www.thehopetheatre.com/

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