Medea

4
Thu, 11th May 17
New version at the Bristol Old Vic

Medea - photo by Jack OffordThe BoV all-female Medea seeks to appluy a new relevance to Euripides' tale of a woman scorned, rejected and banished from society. By combining Robin Robertson's beautifully crafted translation and a modern tale by Chino Odimba we are shown Medea in a new, modern, light. Well, that was the concept, so did it work?

Firstly, let me say that this is a tour de force of a production. The six actors are rarely still and chant, sing, speak and weave their ways in and out of the two stories with enormous energy and commitment. That being said, I'm not sure that I found a new light shone onto Medea by the modern story, nor a deeper aspect of the modern story through its engagement with the Medea myth. Both stories were valid, powerful and engaging but their interleaving didn't add insight in the way I think it was intended to.

Mostly, for me, this comes down to the fect that I can never, in any production, side with Medea herself, nor to Jason. Both characters in Euripides' telling of the tale are hateful to modern sensibilities - but Medea the more so for killing her innocent children as an act of revenge. Not surprising in many ways given the treachery and slaughter that has been part of her journey, but none the less difficult to come to terms with however much you empathise with the tragedy of her immediate situation. 

For MAddy, the 'Medea' of the modern tale, we can definitely sympathise. A military wife whose husband finally gets a desk job and runs off with a younger woman leaving Maddy to look after the two children. Jack (the modern Jason) fails to pay the mortgage and Maddy fails to engage with the increasingly threatening correspondence as she flounders, trying to cope wit hthe hurt and injustice of her situation. This is all very real and is playing out all the time.  

There are clear parallels between Maddy's story and Medea's myth but juxtaposing them in this way hasn't helped me. By equating the two characters ii find my lack of empathy for Medea carries over to Maddy's story, instead of Maddy informing me about Medea's plight - I simply can't find any common ground, intellectual, academic, moral or emotional, with the end Medea chooses and so feel detached from Maddy when I shouldn't. I am sure that had I seen Maddy's tale I would have got the Medea connection myself and still been able to tie in to her journey and decisions - I have been in the military, I have known and still know many military wives (heck reader, I married one!) and their story is powerful. 

The acting was universally excellent with all but Akiya Henry (Medea/Maddy) taking multiple parts with ease. Personally I didn't need the lighting changes as they moved from one story to the other, the delivery, style and performances indicated the changes instantly and without confusion. The set was stark but effective though I am not convinced I fully grasped the stairway to heaven.

A powerful piece and very enjoyable theatre despite my reservations - yoru mileage may very well vary! 


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