“The Testament of Mary” by Colm Toibin and Deborah Warner

Dominique Blanc is on stage for 80 mins directed by Deborah Warner and with  lighting by Jean Kalman

The reviews were so horrendous that I almost did not show up for the performance of Colm Toibin’s play “The Testament of Mary” at théâtre de l’Odéon. But I am a complete fan of British director Deborah Warner and was curious to see (on stage) Comédie française actress Dominique Blanc. The theme, Mary’s vision of her son Jesus Christ’s passion did not especially tempt me either. Yet the emotion is total and the new vision of Mary as a mother quite fascinating.

There are maybe too many accessories on stage but the direction is super efficient

Well I am glad I dragged myself because the 80 mn monologue is a fascinating experience. It is true theatre like you can experience in London or at the Public theatre in New York and Dominique Blanc has the depth, the lightness and the acting genius that a Maggie Smith or a Judy Dench have accustomed us to.

Toibin’s Mary is very different from the image we have of the New Testament’s character. She is not dressed in blue and is wearing slacks and a T shirt, her long hair is more hippie like than Botticelli and she is angry. The scene takes place twenty years after death and she tells the story of her son’s amazing life to two visitors, in Ephesus where she now lives.

Before the performance, spectators are invited on stage

What is striking in the text are the words she uses to qualify her son. The play is in French and the word « bande d’excités » for the apostles is very funny when she pronounces it. Dominique Blanc manages to be a mother on stage, stating how dangerous Jesus’s situation is and how spies follow him everywhere. She does not understand what he is up to, dislikes the fact that her doesn’t evens pea to her at Cana’s wedding and at the end of the play, she concludes by a striking « It was not worth it ».

There are stronger than other moments in the monologue and of course, Christ’s nailing on the cross is one of the almost unbearable times when a mother’s suffering is palpable.The play was written and performed (by Mary Mullen)in Dublin in 2012, it is beautifully translated by Anna Gibson.

Accessories on stage are sometimes superfluous like the final « shower » that Dominique Blanc gives herself with a bucket. The specattor suffers for her, when she has to spend the last five minutes of the play completely drenched and soaking. But the emotion is total and I highly recommend that you rush for the final performances. (Théâtre de l’Odéon until June 2)

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2 Comments on ““The Testament of Mary” by Colm Toibin and Deborah Warner”

  1. Frances

    I so agree having seen it in London it’s a really thought provoking event and something that could only be done in the theatre .. I live in London and love your posts

  2. John McCabe

    As always your review was right on. We saw it on Broadway in 2013 with Fiona Shaw ,strange and fascinating . Loved the book first . Keep the posts coming.

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