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Theatre Review Monstrous victim of abuse and poor script

Medusa
Carriageworks Theatre, Leeds/Touring

THE REFRAMING of Medusa as the victim of sexual abuse at the hands of a powerful man is extremely timely, given the ongoing fallout from the Harvey Weinstein scandal.

Rather than being the monster of mythology, Helen Mort has developed her into “a woman who exacts her revenge on the men that destroyed her and the gods that cursed her.”

Set in a dystopian world that merges myth with virtual reality, Medusa's characters are saturated in internet pornography, adult channels and evangelism. It’s into this over-sexualised society that Elizabeth Harborne’s Medusa, first introduced as an awkward 13-year-old, is raped by Rick Ferguson’s Poseidon at a party.

The scenes that follow are the strongest in Mort’s debut play, with Poseidon painting his victim as a seducer in his version of events.

It’s a narrative that’s supported by the courts, the audience being directly addressed during an uncomfortable rape trial-cum-game show.

But that tension is squandered in the second act through the episodic nature of the highly impressionistic script. There are large sections when it’s unclear what’s happening, how the action  has relevance to the wider plot or even how characters have developed — and that includes the transition of Medusa from broken victim to man-strangler.

That lack of clarity undermines a play that has much potential.

Mort’s language is poetic throughout and the five actors acquit themselves well, not only in playing several roles but also as musicians and singers, with Tim Cunningham’s haunting keyboard score being rooted in the folk and roots traditions.

But the positives are stretched beyond all patience by the script's deficiencies, confusing Mort’s message about abuse.

Touring until November 16 2017, details: properjob.org.uk

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