Skip to main content Skip to footer site map


A dystopian exploration of extremism.

Review: THE MESSIAH COMPLEX, VAULT Festival "That which blemishes thought through faith, is blind, untrue, and punishable" reads the fourth rule set by the Complex. After the Great Experiment proved that it's categorically impossible for any god to exist, faith of any kind is banned. Sethian still believes and is therefore being detained and tortured in an attempt to heal him from his ways. The Messiah Complex is a fascinating exploration of dystopian philosophy and intellectual restrictions. Alexander Knott, James Demaine, and Ryan Hutton devise a piece with clearly defined lore and logic. It's a bold provocation of Orwellian stature.

They work their way into an inquiry in the psyche of belief, while government-led limitations move their main character into everything that lies between anti-hero and villain. Anthony Cozens gives an ever-evolving performance, keeping the audience on his side, rooting for him against the injustice of religious persecution, until the nature of his actions is revealed in full. The script keeps an ambiguous stance, never directly condemning nor supporting Sethian's crusade, leaving it up to the viewer to judge. The actor is joined by AK Golding and Sasha Clarke in a show of remarkable production value.

With video design and cinematography by Charles Flint as backing plus original music and sound by James Demaine and Samuel Heron, it's truly impressive as it drifts into an early Ivo van Hove-ian direction here and there. The visuals come together to deliver a cold ambience, while the use of microphones is at times atmospheric, jarring at others.

Cozens looks constantly haunted. He is hollow-eyed and tormented as Clarke administers him a mandated treatment to edit his memories and remove his ability to dream, forcing him to forget Golding's Sophia and her influence on him. He's simply harrowing.

Clarke's work brilliantly inhabits a space between deep fascination with Sethian's devotion and her blind following of the Complex's rulings - which is just another version of the doctrines they condemn so harshly. She shows a genuine interest in his poetic recollections of how they turned places of worship into museums with redacted information or other lyrical descriptions from a past she can't remember and beliefs she never had, while Golding appears as a vision that only Sethian can see. The creative team builds a strong foundation, using dystopian fiction as a sharp social critique.

They introduce a totally feasible totalitarian state in the shackles of extremism. While Sethian's ideology can be read as an allegory for a multitude of issues, the core study of the Complex's hypocrisy coexists with the reality of religious radicalisation and fundamentalism and how they've affected our history. It's a thought-provoking, accomplished production that is sure to kick start a conversation and leave you wanting more.

The Messiah Complex runs at VAULT Festival until 19 March.

Photo credit: Charles Flint Photography

VAULT Festival has been left without a venue for next year. You can contribute to the #SaveVAULT campaign here.

Review: ASTORIA, Jack Studio Theatre Photo
Tony Britten's play is funny and moving if, at times, tricky to follow

Kerry Ellis Releases New Single Battlefield, featuring Sir Brian May Photo
The supremely talented Kerry Ellis has released Battlefield, the first single taken from her upcoming album Kings & Queens, out on 12 May. Featuring the legendary Sir Brian May on guitar, the track is available to stream and download now, while the album can be pre-ordered via Westway Music.

Samantha Womack, Michael Praed, Faye Tozer, Les Dennis and Nicole-Lily Baisden Will Lead 4 Photo
​​​​​​​Samantha Womack will star as Dorothy Brock, alongside Michael Praed as Julian Marsh, Faye Tozer as Maggie Jones, Les Dennis as Bert Barry and Nicole-Lily Baisden as Peggy Sawyer in the UK tour of 42nd STREET.

Special Spring Offer on NEWSIES at Troubadour Wembley Park Photo
Disney’s Newsies, the sensational family musical with music by Alan Menken, lyrics by Jack Feldman and book by Harvey Fierstein is now playing at London’s Troubadour Wembley Park Theatre for a limited season.

From This Author - Cindy Marcolina

Italian export. Member of the Critics' Circle (Drama). Also a script reader and huge supporter of new work. Twitter: @Cindy_Marcolina

... (read more about this author)

Review: BERLUSCONI - A NEW MUSICAL, Southwark Playhouse ElephantReview: BERLUSCONI - A NEW MUSICAL, Southwark Playhouse Elephant
March 30, 2023

Silvio Berlusconi. Il Cavaliere, the knight. Entrepreneur, television mogul, right-wing leader. Famous for his scandals, fraudulent deals, chummy attitudes with despots and other questionable figures. Cruise ship singer. Laughing stock and controversial political powerhouse. Does he deserve a musical that glamorises his exploits and explains his side of history even though we’ve heard nothing but? He doesn’t, but you can leave it to the English to try and fail to spin a tale of power misuse and faded grandeur into a feminist elegy. The award-winning producing team behind Fleabag want to paint the Italian tycoon from the eyes of the women he abused. Written by Ricky Simmonds and Simon Vaughan from an original idea by Alan Hayling, it’s unnecessary and so lacking in politics that you come out of it having learnt very little about the protagonist except that he gets away with it.

Review: GONE TOO FAR!, Theatre Royal Stratford EastReview: GONE TOO FAR!, Theatre Royal Stratford East
March 29, 2023

Set on a housing estate in South London, the piece sees two brothers being sent out to the shops by their mother. Yemi was born and raised in England while Ikudayisi has just moved from Nigeria. The cultural clash is striking and, while the text has been slightly modernised with coups like the addition of face masks, 15 years are a long time and the racial discourse has somewhat become more sophisticated since then.

Review: MARJORIE PRIME, Menier Chocolate FactoryReview: MARJORIE PRIME, Menier Chocolate Factory
March 26, 2023

Jordan Harrison’s 2015 Pulitzer Prize finalist is a reflection on mortality that doesn’t dare to go into the depths of the matter. It ends up being rather stagnant philosophically and anthropologically, but Dominic Dromgoole’s latest production is a delicate take. Running at 85 minutes on paper but around 70 in reality, the piece’s greatly sophisticated performances and sleek look save it from its redundant nature.

Review: WASTED, Lyric HammersmithReview: WASTED, Lyric Hammersmith
March 25, 2023

Running at around 50 minutes, it’s snappy and positively Gen-Z in pace and subject. Fernandes crafts a script that wanders from deliciously colloquial to slightly expository, but remains solid throughout.

Review: CONTEMPT, VAULT FestivalReview: CONTEMPT, VAULT Festival
March 19, 2023

While the writing is gripping and Gabrielle Nellis-Pain’s performance is excellent, there’s something missing. Catherine’s colleagues are ancient ghosts through the hallowed corridors as she puts on a sleazy, raspy voice to portray them against her well-spoken main character.