Mary, the Mother of Jesus, is one of the most important and iconic figures in Christianity, yet the Bible is bewilderingly short on details as to her personality. A new play set for Broadway attempts to fill in the gaps.
What we know today as the New Testament is a collection of writings all recorded well after the death of Jesus Christ, while some say theses writings date by anything from between 100-300 years after his death it is commonly accepted that the bulk of the writing was done before the close of the century after his death by people who actually were very close to the events themselves. So it is in some ways all the more puzzling, that one of the Bible’s central figures has so little detail about her character featured in its pages.
While it is true, that writers were probably intentionally vague about Mary the person both as a way of diminishing the role of women in the narrative and a way of allowing Mary to assume an elusiveness that could lend to her iconography as the divine feminine. Mary, the meek, the long-suffering, Mary the obedient, Mary the gentle and serene.
A new play set for Broadway will challenge any notions that we have about the Mother of God and examines the icon as a human and attempts to explore the personality, with all it’s frailties of the woman Mary. A one-woman play starring the frighteningly talented stage actress Fiona Shaw, who mesmerised Broadway goers in 2002 with her portrayal of Euripedes’ Medea, it unites the Irish actress with director Deborah Warner and is based on the novel by fellow Irishman Colm Tóibín’s “The Testament of Mary.”
The book attempts to depict the story of the New Testament s seen from Mary’s perspective. It is told by a widowed and embittered old-aged Mary bereft of her only son. The book is full of well-known events of the New Testament but is told from a new perspective. While the play may be libel to cause a storm of controversy amongst the religiously sensitive US Press, the book is presented as a pure work of fiction, the author’s imagining of the woman as human and an attempt to colour her personality with the gravity of grief and loss. The Mary we see may be in stark contrast to the serene icon we are all familiar with
Shaw seems absolutely the right person to portray the character though. When playing Medea, the Greek tragedy about a woman who murders her children when her lover choses to marry another for political reasons she enthralled audiences in New York, London and Dublin earning a Toniu nomination for her troubles. Her powerful stage presence and command of her femininity, allied to her innate motherliness and constant ability to shock and surprise means keen theatre goers are already marking her out as a potential Toni winner, long before the play opens, which isn’t until June 16th.
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