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May
2017
Friday 19th
posted by Morning Star in Arts

Medea

Bristol Old Vic

3/5

Despite its obvious appeal to a rapt school audience, shackling Robin Robertson’s accessible translation of Euripides’s classic tragedy to a modern domestic drama, fails to liberate either narrative.

The two plots, developed in tandem, flip seamlessly between Maddy, a military wife and mother facing an adulterous husband and a ruinously humiliating divorce, and the Euripidean text of the eponymous princess and demi-god driven to ultimate retribution that she draws on for The modern narrative, delivered largely in banal, soap-opera styled terms interspersed with the stylised a cappella version of the original — complete with synchronised, finger-clicking chorus — keeps us guessing as to how long the mirrored lives can remain in step.

The six-woman cast, slick, talented and vocally excellent, are led by Akiya Henry’s passionate, eponymous princess doubling as the Gloucester housewife with attitude.

That they or the text don't hit the mark is down to director George Mann and writer Chino Odimba. The theatrical tempo lacks range, the musical delivery lacks variety and the chorus has more in common with a girl backing group than the pivotal, complex interplay of Greek choral elements with the central characters.

The eventual severing of the synchronised plots jars to almost comic Shizuka Hariu’s simple and stylised monotone set enables the smooth flow of action between the two worlds and even enhances Medea’s god-like retribution, delivered from a white staircase soaring to the heavens.

But it cannot save the modern drama from dragging down the original. 

Something has to be wrong with a production of a play that has survived the centuries if we're left with the overriding message that Medea would have been much better off with a few mates.

Runs until May 27, box office: bristololdvic.org.uk

Review by Simon Parsons




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