Medea always seems, despite the constraints that bind her or perhaps because of them, almost too big even for page or stage. aod returns to Kingston’s Rose Theatre in Euripides’ revenge-fuelled tragedy which premieres here, directed by Abigail Anderson and adapted by David Stuttard. Several of the cast members are aerialists.
Medea is one of Greek tragedy’s most intricate figureheads. As an exile, she is vulnerable. As a ‘witch’, she is calculating. As a woman, she is headstrong, passionate and intelligent in the face of social limitation. Faced with the betrayal of her husband with the princess Glauce, all this comes to the fore. And this is why aerial performance is so right in this production, not only in chilling anticipation of Medea’s final murderous flight from Corinth, but because the physicality, to a haunting, breathy-whispery soundtrack, is able to show the full scope of a multi-faceted character, while she is still bound by anger and frustration. She plans murder and her own escape. Each person she takes into her confidence, one by one she clips to her harness.
Staging is minimal. The only props are Medea’s murder weapons- the poisoned dress and coronet, and the knife. The scene-setting is otherwise left to the imagination, with red everywhere, including each costume as well as a ladder, and drapes upstage. Medea’s mind is played out against the red with silent sequences, of thwarted lovers on the scarlet ladder and the death of the princess shown to brilliant simple effect in the drapery. And in her most scheming moments, suggestive of sorcery, the rest of the cast are lifted and jerked by their harnesses against the red backdrop, resembling the corpses that are to follow at the finale.
Tamsin Shasha is astonishing in the title role. Her acting and acrobatics are in perfect harmony. The volatility of Medea is audible and her tortured mental state visual, while caught in a blood-red mass Shasha moves both sinuously and fitfully, hissing oaths against her cheating spouse. The dance-dialogue between the estranged pair is effective, and Jason (Ewan Downie) delivers his words of treachery with appropriate detachment, if rather neutrally. There are good performances all round from the supporting characters, who double as Chorus members (some great singing there). Dickon Savage in particular does well as both commanding Creon and comic Aegeus, but he is better as the latter.
Upon a future touring of this production, I would like to see it again.
Medea ran at the Rose Theatre, Kingston from 12-15 Nov
Credit for image: Dave Ashton (www.daveashtonphotography.com )