Review: The Messiah Complex, VAULT Festival

The Messiah Complex, VAULT Festival

The unproven is blind, untrue and punishable

The Messiah Complex posits a future in which beliefs that cannot be scientifically proven are banned – religion has been outlawed but so too great writers like Tolkien and Socrates. With the Complex exacting authoritarian rule, even the act of dreaming becomes illegal and so woe betide anyone who dares contravene this edict.

Sethian is one such man though. Caught indulging his faith by saving the “sacred knowledge” in these banned books with his equally fervent girlfriend Sophia, he’s now languishing in an asylum under the interrogative eye of Nurse who demands entire fealty to the tenets of science. Pulled between these two distinct opposites, Sethian wavers.

In these ever-polarised times, deviser/directors Alexander Knott, James Demaine and Ryan Hutton have hit on a dystopian idea that would likely make Suella Braverman cackle in her inimitable way in its performative extremism. And suitably for something so dark, the multiple layers we discover throughout the hour further tighten the screws on how excrutiating this reality is.

The hints of who the audience might actually be, the competing motivations of each woman not quite as clear-cut as they’d have us believe (the staging choice to never have them appear together is genius), Sethian’s torment genuinely disturbing. There’s a boldness too in the choice many more questions than the play is prepared to answer – a touch frustrating perhaps but this is a true ethical morass.

Charles Flint’s video work is a brilliant addition in cultivating the strange atmosphere of this world, even as we flick between Now and Then there’s so much texture added by the detail onscreen. Anthony Cozens is painfully good as Sethian, utterly conflicted by the impossible choice offered by two sides who won’t listen to the other, Sasha Clarke and AK Golding delivering dogmatic zeal to chilling effect.

Running time: 60 minutes (without interval)
Photo: Charles Flint Photography
The Messiah Complex is booking at VAULT Festival until 19th March

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