BWW Review: TESTAMENT, The Hope Theatre
Max (Nicholas Shalebridge), his girlfriend Tess (Jessica Frances), and his brother Chris (William Shackleton) are involved in a terrible car accident that results in Tess' death. After he wakes up in a hospital following a suicide attempt months later, he believes Tess is still alive and wonders why she's not visiting him there. His brain injury kicks off a convoluted oneiric experience.
Written by Sam Edmunds (who co-directs with William Harrison), Testament tells a story that, at this stage, doesn't fulfill its whole potential. Script-wise, it spans highly dramatic dialogue with cheap exchanges that throw the vibe off and make the presence of the former instances seem like flukes or, even worse, as if they were used for the sake of their theatrical value.
Regrettably, some inconsistencies are also found in the direction itself. Edmunds and Harrison build vibrant movement pieces that look stunning and are of great emotional impact, these are alternated with static scenes that pull the narrative into a slight slump and divide Testament in two. On one side, we find expressive and exquisitely allegoric physical parts and on the other basic moments with no imagery whatsoever.
The company is energetic and driven, with Frances bringing a delicate ease as Tess. She is confident and sweet, an opposite match to Shalebridge's portrayal of Max. He delivers a frantic and intense character who embarks on a psychological journey that is, sadly, only scraped by the writing. He is supported by Shackleton as his worried brother, Shireenah Ingram as a less-than-trustworthy nurse, and David Angland and Daniel Leadbitter as different apparitions of Max's subconscious.
Becca White's set design is a gorgeous representation of the demons that haunt the characters. She tints the action with white but frames it with black and splatters paint all over the edges, as if darkness were always threatening to take over. Alan Walden then douses the stage with sharp neon lights: caustic examination-room white becomes purple and blue as we delve into Max's psyche and are shown an unreliable account of the events.
All in all, Testament leaves a bitter taste with its erratic standards. It's a play that shows a lot of potential and hosts an array of talent on all levels, but, as it is, it doesn't hit all the targets.