Down in the sub-terrain of The Vaults, we are transported for one hour to the Bible belt of America, to hear several peoples stories.
A very basic set – we enter to a small group singing harmonic Christian music on a small stage, titled by a large fluorescent cross above their heads. Our seating is set out just like a church – wooden, uncomfortable pews instantly implementing us into the whole church-like atmosphere.
Our performers range in backgrounds – a normal looking business man whom we can imagine with a white picket fence, wife and kids in the suburbs, a sister duo who are very close, housewives with working husbands and young children, a young man in an orange jumpsuit who is in prison for his crimes and finally our main songstress, a soulful lady who we also get the feeling of her presence being in a councillor/priest type role.
Each story is delivered by these people – starting out with a normal tale, which slowly becomes more serious, more emotional and more negative. Two of the three stories present tales of abuse, and the other of an accidental event. However they all have a common link – God.
This basic and very powerful production, set in a Church, sets out to contradict and challenge the Christian belief in the eyes of the abused, the hurt and the unjustified. Somehow they either come back to God despite these awful events, or are being made to repent when they pointedly ask the main question of – why should I when he has let this happen to me? They show just how the ideal of Christianity hides these issues and gives a false sense of security when one doesn’t know where to go.
The performers themselves are so invested in their stories that it’s hard to believe that such terrible stories are a work of fiction. While totally plausible and most probably similar to many true tales, the way they present them is so emotional, expressed in their trembling voices, their tearful eyes, their stiff and shaking bodies. And of course, by cleverly presenting the stories from positive view before quickly deteriorating, we are thrown into constant shock at how detailed and truthful these tales are being presented. For performers to do this so easily, with perfect accents and to make us feel a roller coaster of emotions is a triumph.
Of course one cannot write a review and not mention the music. There is no organ, or pre-recorded music but pure acapella which helps with the atmosphere but also push the essence of escapism through religion. Once a story is told, the songstress addresses it vocally and we see the performers comforted. As if their story suddenly does not matter because they have God.
No frills, no fancy sets or lights, The Testament presents stories of turmoil in an honest and raw way, while challenging religion without the obvious finger pointing.
Written by Tristan Bernays
Presented by Old Sole Theatre Company
Directed by Lucy Jane Atkinson