There are surely few of my regular readers who are unaware of the fact that I label myself a practicing Christian, albeit Christianity of a liberal rather than a fundamentalist nature where my liberal stance finds its place in the practical rather than the doctrinal aspects of the religion. Thus it was with my own very strong bias and agenda that I approached the new work of Yellow Bunny Productions at Space.Com, Joburg Theatre.
I had been advised that it was blasphemous in the extreme. I found it to be the touching portrait of an aging (Patricia Boyer is too young for the role) woman who looks back on the life and death of her son.
The Testament of Mary adapted for stage by Colm Toibin, the author of the 2012 novella of the same name, won three Tony Award nominations in its Broadway incarnation. The nominations were for best play, lighting and sound. Despite this the highly controversial Broadway show closed after only two weeks of a scheduled three month run. In the play Mary, the sole character, denies that Jesus is the Son of God, doubts his miracles, and denies his resurrection. However, this comes across as wishful thinking rather than doctrinal statements. If her son was not the Son of God, had not been able to perform miracles then he would still have been alive.
The stories of the healing of the cripple at Bethesda, the raising of Lazarus, the wedding at Cana and an harrowing account of the crucifixion are all compacted into one hour, together with comments on the followers of Christ – “misfits” she calls them, a suggestion that she is being bullied into telling (or at least not contradicting) the conception story. Yes, there is room for suggestions of blasphemy, but one is inclined to approach this Mary with far more empathy than one would approach the Marianite theologians’ version of the ‘Mother of God’.
There is nudity (gratuitous in my opinion) in the beginning of the work. Then Mary smokes a cigarette. I am looking for the blasphemy and the anachronism irritates, and suddenly I am caught up in the story told from a different perspective to the one I know. Familiar, but not comfortable.
Directed by Lynne Maree, designed by Wilhelm Disbergen and costumed by Linda Wilson, this is a tender and interesting work beautifully acted by Patricia Boyer. Definitely worth seeing. The Testament of Mary is on at Space.Com, Joburg Theatre Complex only for a short run. I was present on the media evening on 27 September 2013.