Theatre: The Testament of Mary

Mary chillingly shares a viewpoint the gospel writers actively reject. Hers.

Based on the short novel by Irish writer Colm Tóibín, the controversial story directed by Anne Louise Sarks has come to Melbourne. The Testament of Mary is presented at the Malthouse Theatre in Southbank.

Pamela Rabe once again delivers a riveting performance in this one woman show. My high expectations of the award winning Australian actress were certainly fulfilled. Rabe, as Mary, voices a series of monologues thoughtfully but fluidly as you are confronted with Mary’s stream-of-consciousness style thoughts and statements.

This is Mary after losing her husband and only son. The character is largely contrary to the representation known in religious and popular culture; Rabe brings a bold, contemplative and unapologetic tone to the vulnerable, fractured character. The role of fanaticism, belied and mysticism and its effects on community, family and the individual Himself are brought to light by Mary’s perspective, drawn from her mother/son relationship and observations.

The stage direction is modern, with the location set in Mary’s place of residence. It is a very sparse, lightly furnished but nonetheless modern apartment. Glass walls and windows allow the audience to see the protagonist from a number of angles and positions, with light fades and well-timed darkness separating each scene.

There is little engagement with the set aside from when Mary cuts fruit in her kitchen – rather loudly in such a minimalistic environment , and when she perches herself upon the furniture to talk contemplatively or cry. The lighting mostly mimics unnatural fluorescent lighting, suitable with Mary’s exposé of the seemingly ‘unnatural’ affections and misrepresentations that followers reflected on her son, in her observation.

Confronting, polarizing and verbose, this show is not for everyone.

Lovers of words and lovers of reinterpretation will surely revel in the darkness of this play and Rabe’s captivating portrayal of its protagonist.

7.5 / 10


The Testament of Mary is playing until the 26th of November. Tickets and information can be found here.

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