Medea at the Oxford Playhouse, review
Take a great Euripidean tragedy - you know, the one where the enraged grand-daughter of the sun poisons her love-rival and slays her own children to get back at her faithless husband. Add a contemporary British poet and a well-known northern touring company. And what have you got? On the evidence of the first night of Medea, as adapted by Tom Paulin and presented by Northern Broadsides in Oxford, something thats short, none too sharp and at times quite lamentably scrappy. In its favour, and pretty much its only favour, actor/director Barrie Rutter has cast a striking, sure-footed young black actress, Nina Kristofferson, as the displaced enchantress whose loving devotions have curdled into vengeful hate. In an alluring greeny-blue silky dress, hair cascading down her back, Kristofferson convinces as a wounded tigress - caged by sexist circumstance in Corinth - who suddenly scents victory and the means to have horrific sport with those who have goaded her. Kristofferson has the makings of magnificence: she holds the stage with clenched authority and rarely loses her grip on Paulins verse, which sounds flinty but often crumbles away into something prosaic and pedestrian upon basic examination. Its a slight problem that shes insufficiently cowed and crushed at the start but the dividend yielded by her smouldering sense of injustice is one of high watchability. More of an insoluble issue is that her forceful presence throws into painful relief the feeble nature of the acting around her, above all the insipidly dressed, synchronised-of-speech female chorus who resemble a trio of unsmiling librarians on a holiday somewhere nice and hot, and Andrew Pollards Jason, whose vaguely Edwardian Oxford don appearance makes him more zero than hero. And what are we to make of Rutters dubious attempts to jazz up the tragedy - literally so, with the chorus wheezing out bluesy nothings on harmonicas and one half of the unimposing design given over to drum-kit, synthesizer and other instruments? Kristofferson has toured a solo tribute to Billie Holiday but is that any reason to have her sing out the odd phrase, or slam down on the keyboards and clash cymbals when anger strikes? At the climactic moment of insanity when shes butchering the (never seen) kids backstage, Rutter and co kill the poignancy by indulging in the sort of free-style doodlings that usually have one reaching for the radio off-button. In place of infanticide, we get an infantile concept. A crying shame.
Copyright © 2011 Nina Kristofferson´s All rights reserved.
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