Edinburgh Fringe Review: Hotel Medea. Summerhall, Edinburgh, 5 August 2011

Hotel Medea almost defies explanation and is such a deeply personal experience that to generalise feels wrong, almost. It is an epic piece of theatre in every sense; it not only takes the audience on an incredibly deep and moving journey, it lasts for six hours. A modern re-telling of a Greek myth which takes place between midnight and dawn does not sound like easy-going theatre, and it isn’t. What it is, however, is an experience so unlike any other that I would defy anyone to not come away feeling changed in some way.

Whether you enter a jaded Fringe audience member whose faith in the transformative power of theatre is waning, and leave with all your ideals restored, or you simply absorb the breath-taking moments of beauty and brutality that Hotel Medea has to offer, you will not feel indifferently.

The story of Jason and Medea is brought into the 21st century with the opening sequence cleverly setting the scene using, for example, a football match and a carnival, controlled by riot police to show that these events could take place in any time. From the moment of entering Hotel Medea, the audience is totally immersed in the story. The tragedy unfolds in three acts and one of the reasons we are so moved by the dénouement is that we were a part of the wedding rituals of Jason and Medea and have invested our care into their relationship. The performance cleverly divides our affections between Jason and Medea and all of their betrayals sting us equally.

In the final act, we become Medea’s children, we are tucked into bed and read to by nurses who administer hot chocolate and hugs. Medea personally kisses each audience member goodnight as they lie in their bunk beds, and this simple gesture makes the gruesome act of killing ‘us’ all the more shocking. However, as we are all Medea’s children, we feel Jason’s betrayal deeply too. Jason is a politician canvassing votes, and we not only form part of his focus group, but are with Medea when she learns of his betrayal through answering his mobile phone. For a piece of theatre which presents us with so many different forms of communication it is still able to convey the most heart-breaking pieces of news in a simple and deeply effective way.

The cast perform their roles so effectively that they sometimes fade into the background of the action so completely that you forget they are there until you interact with one of them in your personal journey through this story. The stamina and talent of the cast goes far beyond what I have seen in any other, and they do this for love, not money.

Hotel Medea engages thoroughly, enough to not only be the stand-out theatrical performance of the whole of the Fringe Festival for me, but to be a strong contender for the single best piece of theatre I have ever witnessed.

Gender Reversal: Women in the audience don balaclavas whilst the men are given wigs and lipstick.

Siobhán Cannon-Brownlie


Photographer – Tim Evans