Review, The Messiah Complex, Bag of Beard, Vault Festival, By Hannah Goslin

 out of 5 stars (5 / 5)

I love when you go to a production and come away having seen perfection.

The Messiah Complex, by Bag of Beard, is the Utopian, almost post-apocalyptic-world story of Sethian, interned in a mental asylum for his faith and the actions that lead him towards this situation. We see flashbacks of what happened along with what led to these, analysed within the controlling and manipulative asylum, equally flawed and equally cult-like. The story makes it hard to side with anyone within the story, both deeply poisoned in their thinking, but also very similar in their approach to life. A world where it is illegal to have faith, believed to lead to crimes, war, disease but those who control this belief, themselves, have arguable opinions and actions themselves. Two cults against one another.

The Messiah Complex in its aesthetic and narrative very much made me think of The Royal Court Theatre and their productions – greeted with Sethian already in a trance, he is surrounded by a square of light with projection images running behind him – very abstract and visually appealing, creating an atmosphere instead of waiting for it. The narrative being easily believable yet also wide enough a concept to be almost futuristic.

I could not distinguish a “better” performer in the production. All very different characters, all were entirely formed, believable to the point of feeling intrusive; we could have cut the fourth wall away and be looking directly into the house, the cell, their world. Sethian is kind, he is clearly in love and at the same time, clearly influenced and mentally affected by this. His wife Sophia is likeable, but clearly powerful and influential, convincing Sethian with her looks, her love, her mind to believe in the religion, the cult and he will do anything to satisfy that. The nurse, also entirely influenced, if not also brainwashed by the government and information of the time, has a level of authority and vacancy of emotion, but at the same time is frustrated and wants to help – she is human despite her initial appearance.

All three interact with one another impeccably, their relationships clearly formalised well and this gives levels to the production, feeling the real emotion and connections. The Utopian but entirely possible story line is visualised easily before our eyes and gives you a trembling feeling on inevitability; the emotions shown especially by Sethian adding to this realism.

The Messiah Complex, while only at their first run of the show, is already perfection. It has the right levels of fiction to potential fact, easily supported by the clearly skilled and full embodiment of the actors of their characters and the story. It is heartbreaking but also quite frightening in its realism. This is a play not to miss and meant for a larger stage for sure!

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