WITHIN seconds it becomes clear that Testament is a labour of love for the two co-founders of the Druid theatre, director Garry Hynes and actor Marie Mullen. A co-production between the Dublin Theatre Festival and Landmark Productions, Testament gives the poetic words of Colm Toibin a fitting platform.
Although written for one actor, Testament presents a series of different voices and alludes to many events in Christian history. We're presented with a retelling of the story of Lazarus's resurrection from the dead, from the point of view of an emotionally involved participant who focuses on the anguish experienced by Martha and Mary as they mourned their dead brother.
Most gripping of all is the re-imagining of the crucifixion of Christ. You might call it a Passion delivered with passion.
The un-named characters are all strong women, courageous in the face of suffering. There are Biblical references, yet the women are also bound by pagan beliefs. These women despair because they have witnessed the agony caused by religious beliefs and politics. They are witnesses, challenging the accepted versions of the stories which shape human history.
There's an eerie feeling to Francis O'Connor's set. There's a solitary scrubbed tale and chair, a writing desk, and a jumble of junk, giving it the air of a ramshackle Irish cottage circa 1900. Yet it's impossible to tell from the place or the garb of the woman which century she inhabits.
Colm Toibin's words are lyrical and evocative. Writing from the female perspective and peppered with altered tales of accepted stories, it's a rigorous work-out for a theatre-lover's mind. But it's not a play for every taste.
This unrefined spectator must confess she found her mind wandering after more than an hour of monologues. Although this is not a reflection on Marie Mullen's performance -- any actor who can work through 80 minutes of script without faltering, while showcasing all those emotions, deserves to take a bow. HHHII