A unique and creative portrayal of a classic Greek tragedy
Euripides’ Medea, is a tragic tale of love, passion, and vengeance, and Southampton’s theatre group were successful in producing a performance which portrayed all of these themes and more. The theatre group’s production of Medea was truly fantastic, with the performances in the play undoubtedly being the biggest success, most notably in the case of the lead Kae Yeboah, who played Medea.
The form of the play means that naturally the role of Medea is demanding, as all scenes involve just two actors, Medea and another character. This requires the actress to be consistent in her role for the whole duration of the play, meaning that she cannot drop out of character once. For this reason the audience witnesses every aspect of Medea’s character: her instinct to love, her anger, her ability to manipulate, and her terrifying vengeful nature which unfolds in the narrative. Kae Yeboah effectively portrayed a character who is certainly not one dimensional, and had to express every part of the character in a totally exposed and honest way. The main strength in her performance as Medea was her ability to interact with Jason (Danny McNamee), in a way which made her history with him credible. In this sense, her devastation at Jason’s betrayal was palpable and for most of the play she genuinely seemed to be holding back tears.
Danny McNamee also delivered a strong performance as Jason, particularly in the final scene, where he discovers the death of his children. His overwhelmed and ultimately distraught confrontation with Medea successfully concluded this tragic play. Another collective standout performance was that of the chorus. Actors Emily Bradshaw, Kimberly Pearson and Phoebe Judd were faced with some potentially challenging dialogue, as much of their speech is metaphorical, and makes references to Greek stories. Written in a poetic structure, the meaning of their words is not as clear as that of the leading characters. Nevertheless, the chorus delivered these lines effectively, and in a manner which highlights that they are reacting to the confrontations they have witnessed.
The stage design added much to the overall viewing experience. Before the play began, the room was dimly lit, and a backdrop of changing scenery, such as mountains and drifting clouds, helped set the somber tone of the play. Soft music played in the background, with lyrics which evoked initial ideas about the play. The shrubbery on the stage was aesthetically pleasing and very artistically suited to the stage design, which helped create the illusion of an authentic ancient Greek setting. However, because the play followed such effective video backdrops, it would have added more to the already creative set, if some kind of backdrop had been used for the rest of the play.
In addition, the use of lighting was very effective, as Medea is consumed in a concentrated red light during the moments of highest emotional intensity. The use of candle light also created a grave atmosphere, to highlight the much anticipated dark consequences in the play. In the same manner, the flashing strobe lighting at the moment where Medea murders her two sons was very effective and successful in creating shock and disbelief for the audience. This is a difficult moment to portray, but Tara Gilmore’s creative direction worked.
One aspect of the play which was visually successful, yet not without fault was the scene re-enacted by the chorus, wherein Jason’s bride accepts the deadly gifts which lead to her gruesome death. The music, along with the artistic dancing, created a tense and exciting scene and the narration by the messenger (the excellent Oliver Bray) is very gruesome, yet no pain was reflected in the chorus’ portrayal of the scene. This was an abstract take on the event, but the dialogue delivered by the messenger was made somewhat less effective, as the pain and suffering of the bride was not emphasised enough.
Nevertheless, the theatre groups’ production of Medea was of an exceptionally high standard. Director Tara Gilmore, along with assistant Ruthie Pinion, were successful in creating an original production of the Greek tragedy, yet one that stayed true to its original messages and themes. This was complemented by the fantastic cast, who were all very well suited to their roles.
Medea was at The Annex Theatre until October 31st.