The cast and team watching Lucy Allen and Emma Espada rehearsal

The play Garden of Gethsemane encapsulates religious trauma that women face along with questioning the contradictions between actual faith and religious organisations.

This allegory, performed by students at LIPA, is told through the tale of six different women being married to the same man, as they hold onto the hopes of their faith.

This all changes in the play as the youngest of the group yearns to escape the garden, and various plot twists maintain the audience’s attention as they delve into the dark reality these characters face.

The period in which the play is set eludes the audience at first, before revealing modern technology later in the show, through changes of costume which represent modernity.

This was a conscious decision, as director and actor Ava Benkova explained: “The audience don’t actually know what time period its set in, so when the phone comes out it’s quite a shock to people as you may think it’s a period piece.”

Emma Espada and Lucy Allen rehearsing

Choreography also stood out throughout the show, with one scene in particular making excellent use of this, imitating football culture with uses of physical theatre and dramatic irony further illustrating this sense of madness that the characters feel under overwhelming patriarchal control.

Director Samuel George-Thomas said: “We wanted it to look like something they had done a million times but kind of show the craziness of the ideas they were pitching, and also the craziness of the communal situation they are in.”

Writer Hosanna Starkey drew inspiration for this piece from her upbringing, having been surrounded by religion from an early age, saying: “I went to Catholic school, so I very much grew up around religion and I was really interested in looking at how religion and faith can be different, and the implications of those two things.”

The production cleverly uses a variety of techniques to convey the intended message to the audience – smart usage of set design immediately stands out as the audience was seated in the style of a thrust stage.

Hosanna Starkey during production of the show
Hosanna Starkey during production of the show

This was also well utilised as cast members regularly addressed the garden, whilst looking out past the audience, this sense of ambiguity was conveyed throughout the whole production leaving each viewer with a unique perspective on the issues portrayed.

The play was performed in LIPA’s George Harrison Theatre on February 22-23, with a cast including Liv Hodder, Ava Benkova, Cerian Owens, Mia Parnaby, Emma Esbada, Lucy Allen, and Natasha Jobst.

This is the second show that Liverpool-based theatre company The Archive have produced, formed by directors of this production, Samuel George-Thomas and Ava Benkova, alongside Hosanna during their second year at university. They debuted their first production ‘Armed Robbery and Suicidal Intent’ last year.

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STAR rating: 4½/5



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