Review: Medea

Brutal, dark, gleaming. reviews DramaSoc’s final offering of the term

Image: Nicholas Atherton

Image: Nicholas Atherton

Venue: The Drama Barn


DramaSoc’s adaptation of Euripides’ classical tragedy manages to be both heart-breaking and horrifying, closing the term not with a bang but with a sense of shock and revulsion. The audience was greeted by a simple and desolate set, with cardboard boxes scattering the stage and a scorched backdrop that mirrored the loss that the titular character of Medea is faced with from the beginning of the play, and the haunting music that closed and opened the play sets the scene for the horror that this production wonderfully portrays.

Medea, abandoned by her husband Jason in favour of the Greek princess of Corinth, is banished by King Kreon and left with nowhere to run to. Overcome by madness and grief, she plans to exact terrible revenge against those who have wronged her. Kate Lansdale was captivating in the role of Medea, her brilliant facial expressions beautifully conveying the madness of a mother whose life has been snatched not only from her but her two young sons. The glimmer in her eyes as she trembled and screamed made her the stand-out actor in this show- the snatches of madness as she flickered between anger against Jason and Kreon and extreme love for her sons had the audience hanging onto every word.

The simple neutral colours of the costumes worked well and allowed the audience to focus on the performances of the central characters rather than any elaborate staging. The decision to dress the male characters in dark suits, while making clear the distinction between the women whose lives have been ruined by the scheming of those in power, felt slightly out of place however. Medea has always been of interest to feminist critics, and director Jess Corner did attempt to bring in the elements of Medea’s struggle specifically as a women, however the real power of the production came not from the conflict between Medea and Jason but the sense of personal abandonment that Medea feels.

Another highlight of the play was the Women of Corinth, whose presence on stage added an almost otherworldly quality as they crept and hissed at the peripheries.  The climax of the play (and my personal favourite moment) came at the death of Jason’s new wife. Here the Women of Corinth took on a highly dramatic role, becoming puppeteers themselves of Jason’s attendant, who was moved about the stage in a powerful re-enactment of the death. The chorus played the role of the cloak consuming the wearer, and the sudden explosion of blood was shocking in its goriness. By the end of the play the true horror of Medea’s revenge was revealed and the gasps of the audience were replaced by silent awe.

While the women of Corinth added a wonderful element of physical theatre to the otherwise realistic production, the use of puppets to portray Medea’s two sons was less effective. Possibly due to the fact that the brown of the paper blended into the costumes of those manipulating them, they were overpowered somewhat by the puppeteers behind them, which made it difficult to see the puppets as characters in themselves. Kate Lansdale’s quietly touching interaction with them nevertheless managed to make the audience forget for a moment that her “sons” were mere paper and tape.

Overall, this play is well worth watching, if you can deal with more tragedy and horror along with upcoming deadlines as the end of term approaches. Perhaps the suffering and madness of Medea will serve to put our own struggles with essays and exams into perspective…