by Euripides in a new version by Mike Bartlett.
Headlong Theatre Tour to 1 December 2012.
Runs 1hr 40min No interval.
Review: Timothy Ramsden 18 October at Palace Theatre Watford.
Past and present link in furious combination.
Two questions about classical tragedy receive intriguing responses in Mike Bartlett’s modern, suburban-set version of Euripides’ drama of Medea, über-jealous wife jilted for a more advantageous match.
How would her fury appear in an age of psychiatry and pharmaceuticals? Is there a syndrome ready at hand to name and tame her rage? Could someone slip her a friendly pill to calm her down? And how about a Medea living a life less exalted, doing her own cooking and cleaning, and getting food for her child? Wouldn’t that use up her energy, or give her a different perspective on things?
She’s seen cooking and cleaning, but nothing deters her from her fury. Aided by designer Ruari Murchison, Bartlett emphasises the everyday environment. A terrace of built-alike houses crosses the stage, one distinguished by a wall being built, apparently across the pavement, by a householder looking to be distinctive. It’s cheap housing, and now Jason’s split from her, his father, the owner, turns up to turf Medea out.
Workplace friends call, realising she’s setting them against each other. And when she cannons downstairs rather than have anyone come in her bedroom, Medea’s flame-red hair seems a touch too theatrically obvious. But Rachael Stirling’s rapid speech shows the instability of her character’s constant improvisations, a restless mind unwilling to accept any counter-reason.
Nothing she says can be relied on. This is someone with a disturbance so deep-rooted, it dominates her and simply flings-away others’ attempts to grasp it. The voice can be low, sometimes containing a fearful appearance of calm and rationality, but it’s always driven by a feverish inner purpose, as Bartlett boldly imposes the mythic – the name Medea, her claims to be a witch – on his modern setting.
Her final frightful act is instinctive. In place of the deliberately vicious revenge against her husband, she hurtles impulsively, with sudden fury sparked by someone in the wrong place at the wrong moment.
Others’ performances create a contrasting normality, sometimes anxious sometimes perplexed, but always disoriented by her rapid changes, in an adaptation powerfully linking Euripides with the world of modern horror-headlines.
Workman: Paul Brendan.
Sarah: Lu Corfield.
Carter: Christopher Ettridge.
Jason: Adam Levy.
Pam: Amelia Lowdell.
Andrew: Paul Shelley.
Medea: Rachael Stirling.
Director: Mike Bartlett.
Designer: Ruari Murchison.
Lighting: Johanna Town.
Sound/Composer: Tom Mills.
Associate director: Lotte Hines.
16-27 Oct Mon-Sat 7.30pm Mat 23, 25, 27 Oct 2.30pm Palace Theatre Watford 01923 225671 www.watfordpalacetheatre.co.uk
30 Oct-3 Nov 7.30pm Mat Sat 2pm Northern Stage Newcastle-upon-Tyne 0191 230 5151 www.northernstage.co.uk
6-10 Nov 7.30pm Sherman Cymru (Theatre 1) Cardiff 029 2064 6900 www.shermancymru.co.uk
13-17 Nov 7.30pm Warwick Artrs Centre Coventry 029 7652 4524 www.warwickartscentre.co.uk
20-24 Nov 7.30pm Mat Sat 2.30pm Richmond Theatre 0870 060 6651 www.atgtickets.com/richmond-theatre
26 Nov-1 Dec 7.30pm Northcott Theatre Exeter 01392 493493 www.exeternorthcott.co.uk