Names are a powerful symbol that provide a sense of identity, whether it’s to our purpose in life, or to how we connect with a loved one. But names can also be twisted into a way that forces identification through the eyes of another. The idea of being told who you are by someone else is a scary thought because it can be psychologically damaging. A sense of belonging, identity and the power of names are all major themes of Chosen. Written and directed by Christine Walsh, the play took place at The Brickworks in Manchester. The dark tale offered an insight into the mentality of cults and how people can be stripped of who they are piece by piece. I saw the show on the 5th May and here are my thoughts on an enjoyable performance.
The play focuses on The Andersons, a family who join a religious group in the hope of finding meaning. The daughter, Rebecca, is grief-stricken about a past mistake and she’s introduced to other young girls called Sacred, Vengeance and Truth. Each member has been given their ‘true name’ by Steven, the leader of the group. The organisation is meant to be a safe haven from ‘The Dead World’ and the Andersons settle in.
I found the naming system to be one of the most intriguing parts of the play. Each girl is named for the role they have within the narrative. Sacred came across as innocent and virtuous, while Truth was presented as condescending and righteous. I also enjoyed the theme of sisterhood, which manifested in Rebecca’s interactions with the other girls, particularly Vengeance. As the family were drawn deeper into the cult, they each found out their ‘true name’ until Rebecca was left.
The play only got darker from there, helped by the moody ambience of the venue. The Brickworks was a great location for the story because of how grim it looked. Found beneath Barton Arcade on Deansgate, The Brickworks looks like a cross between a cellar and a dungeon, ideal for being exposed to psychological warfare on stage.
The acting was top-notch, with the entire cast coming together to create a chilling atmosphere. Eve Gordon, who played Rebecca, was enthralling as she alternated through a gamut of emotions to paint a convincing picture of a traumatised girl. Sarah Wilkinson as Victoria was also sufficiently creepy and motherly all in one go. The tightly paced writing combined with the talent of the actors created a lasting impression.
As macabre as the play was, Chosen provided a sense of hope that no one is defined by what others say. It’s the kind of story that has relevance to every day situations and they are the stories that live on.