Theatre Review Medea
I may not be a Classicist, but I am pretty sure Euripides Medea isnt supposed to be funny. The story of the Barbarian High Priestess, Medea, who elopes with Jason (of Jason and the Argonauts), only to watch him tire of her and marry another when she has given up everything for him including her own identity - is one of the greatest of the Greek tragedies. Yet laugh I did. Plenty. In this new version by Tom Paulin and directed by Barrie Rutter for the Northern Broadsides Theatre company whose Oedipus garnered rich laurels of praise from the Guardian, this northern Medea is reet bloody ticked off with her ex, and out for the sort of revenge that would land her up in Holloway, or at the very least, on a Jeremy Kyle Special. Rendered into almost modern - but not quite parlance, and set on a vertiginous rake covered in animal skins, the Chorus of three (Michelle Hardwick, Barbara Hockaday and Heather Phoenix) skilfully barber-shop harmonise the verse and play harmonicas, breaking quite hilariously into jazz and blues refrains using drums, piano and saxophone parked at the side of the stage, whilst Medea, all exotic green velvet and bright red lips, emphasising her foreignness, stalks the stage making her dreadful plans. Nina Kristofferson turns in a powerful performance in the title role, appearing like a bewildered and betrayed bauble from the top of the Barbarian Christmas tree that has been tossed aside well before 12th Night and cast adrift in a foreign land. Her grief at the loss of her lover to another woman hanging in the air as the Chorus say, is at once passionate and heartbreaking. However, when she hits on the idea of poisoning Jasons new wife and murdering their own children to destroy his happiness utterly before she leaves for exile, she turns chillingly into the High Priestess she must have been when she helped Jason to steal the Golden Fleece from her own people, and eloped with him on the Argo. As he weeps in agony, she sneers from her chariot: Hate on, Jason; hate on... your pleading voice sickens me. As a Greek drama primer, this production works very well. The language is accessible if a little rough at times, and the story easy to follow. Several bus loads of shining eyed teenagers spilling out into the foyer following the performance, buzzing about the way Medea said this, or the Chorus played that, would seem to bear this out. The production is accompanied by a magnificent exhibition of playbills, scripts, and Medea memorabilia (on loan from the Archive of Performances of Greek and Roman Drama at Oxford University) in the top room very well worth a look.
Copyright © 2011 Nina Kristofferson´s All rights reserved.
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