ARC Theatre Company is currently presenting MARTYR by Marius Von Mayenburg and translated by Maja Zade. Directed by Rob Kempson, MARTYR tells a poignant story about finding the balance between science and religion in the modern world. With an impressive cast and unique staging, MARTYR is a great production to welcome you back to the theatre in 2023.
MARTYR is about a teenager named Benjamin who seemingly one day decides that he’s going to be devoutly religious, to the point of essentially being a Bible literalist. He’s suddenly quoting scripture to his mother at home, disrupting class, even talking back to the Vicar at the Church. We watch as his educators, mother, and classmates attempt to navigate and explore this new version of Benjamin and how they fit into his new world view. Never really knowing what he’ll do from one scene to the next, MARTYR certainly had me at the edge of my seat throughout.
The Native Earth’s Aki Studio Theatre is transformed into a theatre in the round for this production of MARTYR. It was the first time I was able to experience the space being used this way and I thought it was a perfect way to stage this play. The actors being in full view of the audience both on and off stage gives the feeling of us being a congregation: a united audience witnessing the spectacle that is Benjamin’s proselytizing. Considering he speaks as if giving a sermon both in public and in private, and most scenes have only one or two characters on stage, it seems only fitting that he has a full audience viewing him at all times.
Nabil Traboulsi brilliantly brings Benjamin to life in this production of MARTYR. He gives the character a genuine passion and fervour synonymous with the type of religious fanatic Benjamin is becoming. Another stand-out performance in this cast is given by Aviva Armour-Ostroff, who plays Erica White, the school’s guidance counsellor. Witnessing her battle the system on every side: from a misogynistic principal (played by Ryal Allen) to dealing with Benjamin’s disruptions in class, to her own partner (played by Richard Lee) dismissing the seriousness she feels the situation with Benjamin warrants, Ms. White is a woman against the world and you certainly feel it. Armour-Ostroff’s delivery of the final monologue of the play was riveting and beautiful, I was blown away by her performance. Benjamin’s classmates are played by Adriano Reis, who gives a heartbreakingly vulnerable performance as George, and Charlotte Dennis who plays the popular girl Lydia. I loved the contrast in how they treat Benjamin as they are subjected to his new-found obsession: following and seducing, always testing his boundaries one way or another. Deborah Drakeford and Ryan Hollyman round out the cast as Benjamin’s mother Ingrid and Vicar Menrath, both of whom try valiantly to understand what’s happening with the young man and how they can get him on the right path. These actors were outstanding; they made me feel so invested in what was going to happen to them next.
MARTYR is an intense and thought-provoking piece of theatre that you simply must see! For more information and tickets, visit: MARTYR | ARC (arcstage.com)
Aviva Armour-Ostroff and Nabil Traboulsi
Photographer: Sam Moffatt
Set and Costume Designer: Jackie Chau
Lighting Designer: Michelle RamsayAssistant Lighting Designer: Za Hughes