Renowned Irish novelist, Booker Prize nominee and Tony Award-winner Colm Tóibín must have given expression to a feminist impulse when he wrote The Testament of Mary; a play which gives the mother Mary’s version of the life, teachings and passion of her son Jesus.
The American Society for the Defense of Tradition, Family and Property claimed the depiction of Mary in the play was blasphemous, but Tóibín says: “The text…is very serious. It’s not as though we’re attempting to get involved with the mockery of icons… we’re recreating or exploring an icon, rather than reducing the iconic.”
Alison Whyte takes on the title role in STC’s Sydney production.
Sydney Theatre Company’s Resident Director Imara Savage says: “It was immediately striking how human this portrayal of Mary was. This is a Mary who’s raw, unfiltered and able to speak her mind and articulate her emotions with life experience, wisdom and hindsight.”
I asked her how she wanted to portray Tóibín’s Mary on the stage. She responded: “This production aims to take Mary off the pedestal to de-mythologize her, only to re-mythologize her in a new, accessible, mother, wife and woman with her own voice.”
Oddly enough, the play closed on Broadway in 2013 after only two weeks of a scheduled 12-week run, but it was nominated for three Tony Awards, including Best Play.
Do we learn something new about Christ from Tóibín’s play? “We learn to think about him more clearly as the son of a mother,” Imara says, “rather than as the son of the divine father”.
Imara encourages people to engage with the piece generously rather than dogmatically, and, God bless us all, we shall. (ID)
Jan 13–Feb 25, evenings & matinees. Wharf 1 Theatre, Pier 4, Hickson Road, Walsh Bay. $55-$75. Tickets & info: www.sydneytheatre.com.au