Monday, 15 October 2007

medEia by Dood Paard, Oct 15, 2007

 medEia  by Dood Paard
Melbourne Festival of Arts 
Beckett Theatre, Malthouse, Oct 15 to Oct 20, 2007

Reviewer: Kate Herbert on Oct 15, 2007

Euripides’ Ancient Greek tragedy, Medea, has a contemporary face-lift in this minimalist production by Dood Paard, a theatre company from Amsterdam.

The play is stripped back to its essential elements and is narrated by three actors who, for most of the time, represent the Greek Chorus comprising the Women of Corinth. The Chorus comments upon the unfolding action, fully aware that they are totally incapacitated in their role as observers and powerless to alter the path of doom trod Medea and her unfaithful husband Jason.

The play is recreated and performed by Oscar van Woensel, Kuno Bakker and Manja Topper. Their text is delivered directly to the audience in a laconic and understated style. The dialogue is peppered with allusions to modern love song lyrics and often has a wry humour.

The restrained style is interrupted intermittently when an actor transforms into Medea or Jason expressing his or her rage, passionate love, revenge or jealousy. The casualness of the Chorus is starkly in contrast to the sporadic impassioned rants of the protagonists.

Four cool, creamy paper screens, patched with masking tape, create a stark design to reflect the emotional detachment of the Chorus. Each screen is raised from the floor at intervals in the dramatic narrative and then torn down before the next is elevated. 

At intervals, images are projected onto a screen. Snapshots of foreign lands echo Medea’s alienation or pictures of ships and trains suggest her extensive travels. Children, families and villages remind us of her shattered relationships and the disturbing rapidity of the slideshow evokes an unsettling sense of her psychic breakdown.

The dislocated, non-linear structure of the story compels us to confront Medea’s final tragedy throughout the performance. The Chorus damns her as a murderer and a traitor to her own land, a stranger in their country and a potent witch with frightening and violent powers. 

Yet we are aware that Medea is driven by love, blind love for her husband Jason who abandoned her for a younger woman but is still hailed as a hero. We have some sympathy for her predicament if not for her vengeful actions.

medEia is a fascinating and accessible production that expresses the universality of the Ancient Greeks’ plays.

By Kate Herbert

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