In choosing Medea for his freshers’ play, I certainly can’t fault director David Swallow for lack of ambition. Notoriously wordy and thoroughly morally reprehensible, Medea tells the story of the wife of Jason (the same guy from Jason and the Argonauts), who, wild with fury at her husband’s infidelity, brutally murders his new bride in a truly horrible way, then to complete the bloodbath, her own two children she had with Jason. Yes: spoilers, spoilers, but this is tragedy – you know things aren’t going to go well.
Execution – unintentional pun – of the play was patchy, the first setback being that the actress playing Medea had gone AWOL (for fairness I should point out she was ill) and so was replaced by producer Mathilde Johnsen, self-consciously holding her script. It is ironic that Johnsen was one of the strongest elements of the piece; she did incredibly well in unfortunate circumstances.
The play was, however, compromised by a self-consciousness and lack of conviction in the cast. Jamie Jones as Jason tended to make lines more emotional by shouting them, so came across more as a sulky boy who had had his Wii confiscated than a man who has lost his children. Ghislaine Adair made the most of her few lines, sending the only shivers of the play up my spine as she described, in visceral detail, the princess’ skin melting off and her body burning. Although this was obviously not shown on stage (curse the student theatre budget), with Adair’s conviction you could almost see the carnage.
With a little tightening up, and perhaps a rethinking of the invisible children with curiously adult voices – ‘She’s got a knife! Mother please don’t kill me!’ – Medea could have been a lot stronger. Kudos for bravery and vision though.
Image credit – Matt Leonard