While Euripides’ Medea isn’t the cheeriest play in the ancient Greek canon, it is an enduring classic because it touches on human issues that have resonated throughout history.
The play is essentially about the emotions, desperation and (in this case) tragedy associated with a failed relationship – made more fateful because children are involved.
It is centred on a wife’s calculated desire for revenge against her unfaithful husband.
It is set Corinth after Jason’s return from his celebrated quest for the Golden Fleece, where he met Medea.
Medea goes into a blind rage at Jason for arranging to marry Glauce, the daughter of King Creon – and she starts her disturbing scheming.
Like any imploding relationship, the issues are greatly magnified by the fact that Jason is a family man, albeit a rather hopeless one.
He was obviously too busy hunting golden fleeces to ponder the ramifications of a woman scorned, and the upshot isn’t pretty.
Now there is a very interesting take on the Medea story on the boards at the Theatre Underground at the State Theatre company.
We are transported to a contemporary family setting, and rather than rejig Euripides’ very adult perspective, this new adaptation, co-written by WA’s own Kate Mulvany and Anne-Louise Sarks, puts one of history’s most notorious family breakdowns into the kids’ bedroom.
It looks at the story from the view point of the two very normal, playful, and sensitive young sons.
Locked in their bedroom, the brothers play games to pass the time and entertain themselves, and perhaps distract themselves from the painful spousal quarrelling and sorrow in the rest of the house, or off-stage in this case.
“At an inevitable moment, the children will be drawn away from their games and into their parents’ bitter argument,” say the production notes “From there, they will enter mythology as the most tragic siblings of all time.
“It is to Euripides’ Medea what Rosencrantz and Guilderstern Are Dead isto Hamlet: a behind-the-scenes look at the lives of minor characters before the ominous central plot takes over.”
The resourceful, but innocent, lads get several visits from their increasingly distracted mother as the tension mounts, but it is primarily their story and it is well written and acted.
Ultimately, our modern Medea steels her resolve to cause Jason the most pain possible and the disquieting finale is acted out.
The performances by all the actors are excellent, with a particularly impressive showing by the youngsters; staging effective, taking place in a messy, toy-strewn bedroom; and writing sophisticated and believable.
This is a touching and deftly constructed back story of a tragic masterpiece by the Black Swan State Theatre Company and the WA Youth Theatre Company; and is one of the more memorable productions in the old town for quite a few moons.
Well worth a night at the theatre!
Medea runs until 25 August at the State Theatre Centre of WA. More information and bookings at www.bsstc.com.au
DIRECTOR: Sally Richardson
CAST: Jalen Hewitt, Lachlan Ives, Jack Molloy, Alexandria Steffensen, Jesse Vacation
SET & COSTUME CONCEPT: Bryan Woltjen
SET & COSTUME REALISATION: Tyler Hill
LIGHTING DESIGNER: Lucy Birkinshaw
SOUND DESIGNER & VOCAL COACH: Melanie Robinson
MOVEMENT DIRECTOR: Laura Boynes
FIGHT DIRECTOR: Lawrence Hassell
After the Show
Production Photographs: Philip Gostelow
Social Photographs: Peter Rigby