• Thu. Jun 13th, 2024

Review: Medea

ByLouis Whittell

Feb 12, 2023
Medea Press image

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Medea is slick. It’s slightly shorter than other productions of the same play, which can be up to half an hour longer, but less is more in Jemima Jayne’s outstanding adaptation. Her translation of the ancient Greek classic (no mean feat) teases out the political undercurrents which charge Medea’s personal struggle with Jason, her husband. The result is shocking and undeniably contemporary. Jason (played by Huw Turnbull) is the very picture of Westminster sleaze, blended with a younger version of King Charles III. In fact, all of the male characters are shorn in garments which tell of days gone by at Eton; Aegus’ cropped waistcoat is a particular example of this (played by Oscar Bryan). The costume design (as with pretty much everything else going into the play) is wickedly clever. Hats off to Nhi Tran, who delivers yet another star turn in her enduring role at Bedlam.

The cast is incredible. The tone is set from the off with the nurse’s emergence onstage (played by Liz Dokukina), whose mournful countenance vividly foregrounds the play’s impending tragedy. She is joined onstage by a steward (played by Nicolas Nemoliaeva), and their joint exposition becomes increasingly interrupted by Medea roaring in a fury. Medea’s revelation stops your breath a bit; she emerges through a torn sheet door, which protects a great, tent-like structure held together by sheets at the back of the stage. She walks with a slow, methodical spring and is robed in a deep black gown which glimmers in the spotlight. Tatiana Szapary is imperious as Medea, and the stature in which she carries herself is rivalled only by the wicked cockiness of Huw’s Jason.

Jamie Argo and Lish Ak are adorable as their children, and together, the four resemble the troubled family dynamic of a young Diana, Charles, William and Harry. Jason wants his sons to become ‘great men’ — whatever that means — while Medea wishes only that they have the freedom to become themselves. She struggles throughout the play between her duty to herself and her duty as a mother. This conflict is vividly enhanced by her chorus, played by Abby Brooks, Amelia Chesworth, Ellie Moore, Isabella Caron, Ljiljana Krneta and Madalena Morris. As a sextet, their synchronisation is flawless. This makes for some of the play’s eeriest moments, and the effect is truly atmospheric. It also vividly represents the culture of shame that women are forced to contend with in the pursuit of higher aspirations. Reflecting the enduring legacies of gender politics which are at the heart of Medea’s marriage, each member of the chorus wears the apparel of a different epoch. Ancient Greece is on display, but so too is hippie culture and the straight formality of the modern office space. Dressed in their Eton garb, it is only the play’s men who have the freedom to transcend the epoch altogether. The staging brings all of this into quite close proximity to the audience, which allows one to reflect upon the play’s politics in a rather intimate setting.

To conclude, Medea pulls no punches. It is direct and unafraid to cast the pre-text in a thrillingly current way. And it’s a lot of fun. The prod team understand the joy there is in watching domesticity fall apart, and to that end, moments play out like an especially tense episode of Come Dine With Me. King Kreon (played by Charlie Bolden) is the evil overlord come to tea, and he struts his stuff with the aplomb of a workplace Darth Vader. The image of a recently dismissed Tory PM also comes to mind. Aegeus offers a sprightly addition to the play’s second act, but never forget that the spotlight is Medea’s; Tatiana certainly won’t let you. She catches the eye and does not drop it until the curtain is called. It’s fantastic stuff, and it might just be Bedlam at its best. Well done to everyone involved. 

Tickets for the remaining nights can be found here:

Image Credit: ‘Medea-5033’ photographed by Andrew Perry provided via press release