(Peter Crawley’s article appeared in the Irish Times, 10/5.)
WE ENTER a space that is at once strange and familiar – following an earthen path, against the evening song of cicadas, into a home that accepts us like a congregation. We are also intimately well-acquainted with the speaker of Colm Tóibín’s monologue, yet here she is changed utterly; a mother who has lost her son – to politics, to symbolism, to violence – a woman whose bowed, covered head we recognise from countless baby-blue portraits, whose suffering we remember in marble.
The remarkable ambition of this co-production between Ulster Bank Dublin Theatre Festival and Landmark Productions is to make Mary, mother of God, flesh. Twenty years ago, without a hint of the profane, it would have been picketed, perhaps banned, for daring to put words and dissenting thoughts into the mouths of icons. A beautiful piece of writing, if a confused piece of theatre, the most significant thing about Testament is that it exists. Even in a nation whose artists have long questioned or subverted the teachings of the church, and whose people reappraise religious authority in both sorrow and anger, there is a real frisson in Tóibín’s creative right to reply.