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BLUEPRINT MEDEA combines two stories of immense consequence, the first being the classic Greek myth of Medea, immortalised through Euripides’s dramatic masterpiece.
The second is anything but a myth — the real and ceaseless battle by the Kurds to be recognised as an independent nation and to command their own territory.
Playwright Julia Pascal, who also directs, creates a contemporary Medea in the form of a Kurdish woman who is both exploited and oppressed while also fighting for her people and bravely asserting her noble origins.
It’s fitting that this urgent and contemporary play premiered last year and now online, was produced at the Finborough, where artistic director Neil McPherson is a leading figure in contemporary theatre, with a particular eye for undiscovered or forgotten gems and pressing themes.
A self-styled “Jewish atheist,” Pascal is an impressive writer, whose work has often focused on her own personal and political experience and has at times triggered controversy, especially over her alleged anti-Israel stance in plays like Crossing Jerusalem.
But something in this play doesn’t quite work and the problem lies in the dual-story approach which overcomplicates the intellectual thrust of the piece while blurring what should be a direct emotional bond with the lead character.
Euripides’s Medea excels in its intensity, clarity and a purposeful narrative that sweeps to an overpowering climax, while Pascal’s play meanders through a medley of scenes, some stylised, some attempting naturalism.
It addresses both the plight of the Kurds and the effect of male domination on women of drive and intelligence, both themes of such huge import that they deserve their own head space.
As a result, the audience is tossed from one idea to another without ever really engaging with the emotional truth of the central character and her relationships.
The cast appear to interact uncertainly and seem confused about the style of their delivery. Never do they seem to capture real people in a real situation, nor do they bring us the poetry and weight of classic Greek tragedy.
Pascal must be congratulated for addressing this massive subject and for introducing comedy and Kurdish music into the drama. But in the end she tells us too little about a multitude of outrages rather than bringing us an in-depth study of the core theme.
Ruth D’Silva makes an engaging Medea, Max Rinehart endows her modern-day Jason with swagger and beauty and the entire cast impress in the ensemble pieces.
But in the end, the play should move the audience, not impress us with its argument. And it doesn’t.
Available to download until December 31, finboroughtheatre.co.uk.
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