Religious extremism explored in Martyr at Unicorn Theatre


Benjamin won’t take part in swimming at school. His mum thinks he’s on drugs or has body issues. But Benjamin has found God and mixed-sex swimming lessons offend him.

So begins the teenager’s journey towards religious extremism in a play that captures the zeitgeist of today.

The UK premiere of Marius von Maybenburg’s 2012 play, Martyr comes to London’s Unicorn Theatre this autumn. The Actors Touring Company production will be directed by Ramin Gray.

The cast is led by Amanda Hale, star of The Nether, Ripper Street and The White Queen.

She is joined by Flaminia Cinque (Bridget Jones – The Edge of Reason), Kriss Dosanjh (Rafta Rafta), Mark Lockyer (London Road), Brian Lonsdale (The Pitman Painters), Daniel O’Keefe (professional debut), Farshid Rokey (Mogadishu) and Jessye Romeo (Dirty Sexy Things).

This is a story about religious radicalisation in the classroom. Benjamin’s school wants to accommodate all faiths but when will they recognise the threat that his religious belief has on their own liberal ethos?

As Benjamin terrorises the staff and fellow students alike, only one teacher is prepared to take a stand. How far is she willing to go and what will she risk to defend her own deeply held convictions?

Veering from the humorous to the sinister and ultimately to the shocking, Martyr is a provocative and urgent exploration of the clash between fundamentalism and tolerance in Western democracy.

This is a play that considers how far we should go in accommodating another’s faith and when it is right to take a stand for our own opposing values.

Bringing together audiences both young and old the Actors Touring Company, the UK’s leading producer of international contemporary theatre, is co-producing with Unicorn, the UK’s principle professional theatre company for young audiences, to present the drama which is very much of our times.

ATC artistic director Ramin Gray said: “If the defining event of our time is the clash between the fundamentalist and liberal perspective, then Martyr is the play for today.

“If theatre can play a useful role in creating a space for the important conversations to take place, then Martyr is the play for today.

“If theatre not only reflects but interrogates our social structures and values through humour, provocation and conflict, then Martyr is the play for today.”

One of Germany’s most prominent young playwrights, Marius von Mayenburg was awarded the Kleist Prize for young dramatists for his first play Fireface in 1997, the Frankfurt Writer’s Foundation Prize in 1998 and was named 1999’s up-and-coming writer by the magazine Theaterheute.

Alongside his activities as playwright, Mayenburg has worked as a translator for plays such as Thomas Ostermeier’s Shakespeare productions of Hamlet, Othello, Measure for Measure and Richard III. He is also a prolific theatre director.

Martyr runs from September 15-October 10.

Leave a Reply