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Published on Thursday, 25 August 2011

2 stars

Assembly George Square (venue website)
3-29 Aug, 6:30pm-7:35pm
Reviewed by Mathilda Gregory

 Family-friendly. Suitable for all ages.

The story of Medea probably has the best-known third act after Oedipus. I think it is pretty safe to assume that most of the audience would’ve known what was coming; known that Stella Duffy’s adaptation of the famous play was going to be a tragedy, even before we entered the auditorium to the sounds of a woman sobbing uncontrollably.

This is quite a risky production. The basic risk is that it tries to place our sympathies with the notorious titular heroine. She is presented – or, at least, she presents herself to us – as a strong, clever woman. But how to show this capable, logical Medea’s descent into the unthinkable?

It’s hard to read her as driven mad by grief for Jason. He seems so hapless that it is almost impossible to see why canny Medea would really care so much about his betrayal. And it’s a bit of a stretch to try and recast her as an independent women when the bare bones of the story are what they are.

This version dwells more on the horror of exile and Medea’s racial origins, but for me it never quite convinces. The dialogue is exposition heavy in places, it clunks along, while, at times, the whole thing starts to feel pretentious.

Although the piece contained some deft performances it was hard to fathom what it was really trying to say. I want to admire the chutzpah of taking this story, of all stories, and trying to make it modern and relevant, but it really doesn’t pull it off. When the final scene arrives with its final horrific act, it is impossible to understand why Medea behaves as she does – and the whole thing felt confused.

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