Medea (Helen McCrory) has given up everything and burned every bridge to be with Jason (Danny Sapani). And now she sits in a foreign country with two children she never actually wanted and Jason left her for Glauce (Cathe Whitefield) and she is about to be banished with her kids. Medea rages against this turn of fate and she is not about to take this lying down. But her options are slowly taken from her and her desire for revenge starts to overshadow everything.
I think that the story of Medea is one of the more fascinating classic myths and the version we got in this production was absolutely fantastic. From the music – by Goldfrapp – to the play itself, from the choreographies to Helen McCrory: I was blown away.
I think this is one of the most outspokenly feminist version of the material so far. The play is firmly with Medea, despite her horrible choices. It doesn’t try to deny those choices or make Medea seem like a saint, trapped by circumstances. This Medea is strong. She is vengeful. She is insane but not senseless. She fights with everything she has despite living in a world where she can’t have much at all. This Medea is the rare phenomenon of a female antihero and I loved it.
Helen McCrory does that complexity full justice. Her performance is like a force of nature. Medea’s rage and her unwillingness to accept the shitty hand she is dealt are in every word she speaks, as is her unbearable sadness and her inability to understand why Jason would betray her like he did – and then try to paint it as if he had done it for her and the children. It’s awe inspiring.
It’s been a while since I read the Euripides version so I am unsure about how much Ben Powers changed it, apart from updating the language a little bit and reinforcing the feminist rhetoric (I don’t remember it as quite as pronounced, but I could be mistaken). In any case it was pitch-perfect.
Cracknell’s direction was great. She has a wonderful understanding of her characters and an excellent sense of space on (the beautifully designed) stage. I loved how she echoed the Greek chorus with dancers and how they in turn mirror Medea and her continuous shaking (and vice versa). The mix of old myth and modern design worked very well for me in general.
It was also a good decision to keep the play short – 90 minutes only. That way it is possible for the play to be pure tension and not make me pass out from holding my breath. Because I’m afraid that that would have been an actual risk had it lasted longer.