Pros: I liked the ethereal music by Daemonia Nymphe, played on reproductions of ancient Greek instruments, and some of the theatrical imagery is very beautiful.
Cons: This production is overdone, contrived and exhaustingly emotionally overwrought.
A wedding banquet, the table groaning under platters of fruit, flowers and wine. A host of beautiful people, dancing to thrilling music and raising their glasses in celebration of the bride and her groom. Only at a second glance does one discern the discord in all the glittering harmony. On the floor to the right, a woman raises her arms to the sky in despair, and, more ominously, a lonely dark figure looms above the scene of the feast, foreboding the tragedy that the happy wedding will inevitably lead to.
Medea is the ancient Greek myth written around 430 BCE of a passionate woman who revenges herself for her husband’s disloyalty by poisoning her rival, murdering her own children, and killing the king of Corinth. Theatre Lab Company stage this daring production at Riverside Studios with a mix of theatrical imagery, movement, physical theatre and ethereal music by ensemble Daemonia Nymphe. Medea herself, played ferociously and passionately by Marlene Kaminsky, is the focus of the play, while a chorus of three women accompany her, drifting in and out of the roles of omniscient observers and actual Greek women sharing her grief and sorrow.
It’s a difficult play to stage, with its epic storyline, strong passionate feelings and references to Gods that do not really strike a chord with contemporary audiences. Despite some beautiful imagery and lovely original music, this performance was too elaborate and overdone for my taste. Far from moving me, the vengeance and lust that Medea feels for her disloyal husband Jason seem contrived, and the long scenes in which she expresses her grief and anger through movement and vocal noises just become a bit tedious, and are so emotionally overwrought that I simply did not believe them. When the climactic moment where Medea suffocates her two boys arrives, it had been so long in coming that it takes away from the act’s inherent horror. Also, in an effort to create beautiful imagery – which is often done successfully – some aspects just seem overly exaggerated, such as the strange and unnecessarily sensual moment when Jason’s bride is, inexplicably, smearing white power onto her chest and face.
One problem might be the space itself, which is too intimate to house a production that lives off the theatrical and the grand. Maybe it is large budget, epic films that have spoiled me for this kind of theatre, though I do feel as though it could have been done – maybe by scaling down some elements a little, and playing on the strengths of an actual physical production – such as bringing the relationship between the actors and the audience to the fore. In Medea, I did not feel as though I had any relationship with the actors, nor sympathy for the characters.
I cannot end without praising Spyros Giasafakis and Evi Stergiou for the hauntingly beautiful music performed on reproductions of ancient Greek instruments, and the strong performance by Tobias Deacon as the reckless, arrogant Jason. Overall, Medea is an interesting performance with a focus on physicality and emotion, and a laudable attempt to bring the ancient myth to life.
Director: Anastasia Revi
Producer: Martina Reynolds
Box Office: 020 8237 1111
Booking Link: http://www.riversidestudios.co.uk/
Booking Until: 22nd March 2014