Oct 15th – 17th
‘On the day of the holy polyscarp, I declare war against depravity’
Watching Marius von Mayenburg’s quasi-Christian Martyr is a bit like being crucified, a painful drawn-out affair that places the audience on the hill of Cavalry for 95 torturous minutes. First presented at the Schaubuhme am Lehniner Platz, Berlin, in February 2012, nobody in Britain would touch it with a barge-pole until Unicorn Theatre, in conjunction with Actors Touring Company, took it on this year. The play tells the story of bible-quoting, future spree-killer Benjamin Sinclair, played effortlessly brilliantly by Daniel O’Keefe, & his interactions between the rest of the cast; his mum, his teachers, his class-mates & a vicar. Scene-by-scene he is slowly suck’d into the Jesus complex, & the knock-on effect that has on the rest of the player’s lives. Of these, the dynamics between his increasingly exasperated mother, & his teacher obsessed with out-theologizing the lad were the most interesting; the others were a bit plastic.
Unicorn Theatre’s (with Actors Touring Company) self-titled moniker as the ‘the UKs Theatre for Young Audiences’ is well-given, for one gets the feeling one is watching Grange Hill. I can imagine von Mayebnurg making a list of what will shock a young audience; nudity, gay kisses, accusations of paeadophilia, & string them together with an evangelical thread… & tada, ladies & gentlemen, we have Martyr. Between condoms on carrots, a clumsy cast-clutter’d stage & a suitably Twilight-style visceral ending this play certainly stood out. In the Q&A session after the show, we were told that teenage audiences go wild for the controversiality of the play, but there is an element of unoriginality in trying to shock us – where is the subtlety. But saying that – a teenager delighted by the theatre today is an adult moved by the theatre tomorrow. THREE STARS
Reviewer Damo Bullen