Friday, 16 October 2015

Martyr

Traverse Theatre, Edinburgh
Four stars


There are moments when it feels like Benjamin, the teenage Christian fundamentalist at the heart of Maja Zade's English translation of German playwright Marius von Mayenburg's drama, is bursting, not just out of his school uniform, but out of his very skin in this co-production between Actors Touring Company and Unicorn Theatre. One minute he's quoting the scriptures to justify
his refusal to take part in mixed swimming lessons, the next he's thrown into temptation by both his
classmate Lydia and his would-be disciple and good cause, George.

Growing pains and a bursting sexuality, it seems, are guided by a blind faith that is prepared to sacrifice anything that gets in its way. This is made flesh here by Benjamin's  biology teacher, Erica, who, in between dodging the everyday sexism of her male colleagues becomes an equally obsessed believer.

Set on an array of wooden surfaces and platforms which his cast navigate, Ramin Gray's production estuarises things up to a more localised degree. This points up just how easy classroom terrorists can be sired even as it acknowledges the play's roots in a Germany which has been dealing with the fallout of extremism from all sides for seventy-odd years.

Such a complex crisis-crossing of belief systems and adolescent angst is fiercely and at times wittily delivered by an eight-strong cast led by Daniel O'Keefe as Benjamin and Natalie Radmall-Quirke
as Erica, with Farshid Rokey a tragi-comic George. The production's final image, in which private devotion becomes public spectacle by way of grand gestures, resembles a contemporary rendering of classical religious tableaux. It's immortality of sorts, even though no-one has a prayer left to call their
own.

The Herald, October 19th 2015


Ends

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