A ‘Mass’ With Amy Mason at Bristol Old Vic

amy-mason-massAmy Mason, 2014 Dundee International Prize Winner, performed her first solo show at the Old Vic, Mass, in which she explores faith and religious ritual. In the style of a Roman Catholic mass, which she used to go to every Sunday until the age of 14, Amy told her own story and raised important societal questions through giving her own mass.

The audience was participating, as is the custom at a traditional mass, by singing along; and Amy, as the hostess-priestess, came up with her own greetings and gratitude giving.

There was the entrance song, the greeting, the opening prayer, a communion rite, and a period of silence or song of praise.

The show started with a screening of a short conversation between Oprah and Lindsay Lohan discussing spirituality. It was a comic start, and in her unique, quirky fashion, Amy made her entrance by asking how many in the audience believe in God – testing the official statistics that claim 63% of the UK population doesn’t believe in God – and questioning the impact of religious upbringing on our lives, both individual and collective.

Providing her own prayers, she asked for the others’ kind permission to join in and read along and shout greetings.

In between ordered rituals, one learns Amy’s personal story of religious upbringing and the stages of her revelation about the world’s order. She tells these anecdotes with humour, and yet whole-heartedly reaching out towards transcendence through retelling.

Mass - Photos by Jack Offord (1)As she skips to and fro between select episodes of her life, Amy reaches a culmination point in her re-examination with the unpleasant incident she empathically retells, of when the bus she was travelling on ran two people over and she found herself praying, as a reflex, as an answer to the non-answerable. Observing the unfazed attitude of the surroundings, Amy finds herself lost in the secular world of a seeming lack of compassion – the central point of all religions.

Accompanied by soul music – Amy’s favourite – and gifts to the audience of cider and fruit, Amy’s Mass revisits the most ancient of rituals and lays out her own commandments of virtuous behaviour, which don’t exclude swearing and vices, but avoid the mention of sin, guilt, and encourage human kindness.

Previously seen as a work-in-progress in the July 2014 Ferment Fortnight, Mass is a quirky autobiographical solo show for those who aren’t sure who they should turn to when they no longer have a God to look up to.

Photos: Jack Offord