Suzie Miller’s adaptation of Medea is heart breakingly beautiful. With a chorus singing in harrowing rounds, Medea’s opening with a gut wrenching howl, and a set design that instantly takes you into the home and psyche of a tormented soul, Medea has returned to the stage with an opened heart and voice of truth and bravery.
Christen O’Leary is mesmerising as Medea. Her ability to snap between agonising heartbreak, scheming menace and loving maternal instinct is truly harrowing to watch. With a touching vulnerability O’Leary invites us into her trauma and keeps us with her. Medea reminds us of our private insight into her story through the clever use of menacing laughs, unbelieving looks at the doubtful chorus, and empowering direct addresses to the women in the surrounding audience. Whether you sympathise with Medea or not, O’Leary generated a captivating roller coaster of hopeful gains and devastating sacrifices. Just as Jason stands as antagonist to Medea, Damien Cassidy seemed to counter O’leary’s performance, but not in a beneficial or equal way. While Cassidy managed to capture Jason’s indifferent nature towards Medea in the plays beginning, it was his moments of connection and true feeling that lacked when compared to O’Leary. With an uncomfortably awkward sexual embrace between O’Leary and Cassidy leaving an impression of Medea’s sexual power and Jason’s unsettling weakness, it was clear that the women were given the dominant focus and force within the piece, while Jason was left to tread a step behind. Cassidy’s downfall was equally as problematic, featuring a rigid attempt at tears and an uncomfortably rehearsed fall to the floor in despair. Whether Cassidy’s performance lacked in honesty, or the writing itself favoured the women in an attempt at feminist discussion, something was definitely unsettling about the male-female balance.
Helen Christinson was an excellent stage partner to O’Leary. Whether she was by Medea’s side as the loyal and honest Nurse, or towering above her as the unforgiving Glauce, Christinson definitely became a deserved stage partner to O’Leary throughout the production. What’s more Glauce evidently became the driving force of vicious destruction in place of Jason. With a cruel and sharp demeanour as Medea’s usurper, and relatably tormented as her Nurse, Christinson’s diversity was easily a powerful match for O’Leary’s magnetism.
With a magical circle of candles surrounding a huge black candelabra atop a mahogany table, Medea‘s set design definitely created a ritualistic aura fit for a desperate witch to cast spells of revenge. The ritual of Medea lighting the candles, and in turn the stage, and the chorus members bringing her story to a close with a gentle stopping of the quivering candles was one of the most memorable uses of the set and lighting design.
While the script seemed to produce a tipping of the gender scales, Miller’s adaptation of the Medea myth was undoubtedly resonant. While Medea’s blatant statement of her story’s need to be told seemed slightly didactic, the message was a prevalent reminder of the myths importance to be produced today. With powerful imagery, intense performances and a new version of a classic tale, Medea was definitely a story that not only needed to be told again , but heard again as well.
– Written by Rhumer Diball June 16th 2015
MEDEA PRESENTED BY LA BOITE THEATRE COMPANY.
LA BOÎTE: SAT 30 MAY – SAT JUN 20, 2015.
Photo credit Dylan Evans