277 Views

Medea, Written In Rage Review

Jean-René Lemoine’s acclaimed production of Medea, Written in Rage came to Brighton’s Marlborough Theatre last week, telling the story of a woman who takes revenge on her former husband by killing their two children, as well as his new wife. The production, itself a French reimagining of Euripides’s ancient tragedy, is translated into English, adapted and directed by Neil Bartlett.

The set was wonderfully simple: a single microphone front and centre from which Medea would deliver her monologue, with a clever array of backstage lighting and a smoke-filled stage wafting haze into the audience.

An arresting opening was, for me, the play’s greatest moment – and it really is spectacular. Perfectly utilising the staging and sound design, Francois Testory’s Medea emerges slowly and hazily from the back of the stage, cloaked and eerily formless. The opening lines of monologue set the audience up for what they are in for – a chance for this misunderstood character to tell her side of the story, sparing no detail of violence or confessional honesty.

Special mention must be given to the costuming and sound design. A simple cloth served as a garment which beautifully paralleled the emotional state of its character, adapting as hood, cloak and shawl to heighten the tragic gravitas of each moment. Phil Von François’s musical and sound performance is wonderfully creepy and beautiful in equal measure, and the audience reacted well to the fourth wall-breaking interplay between acting and musical performers.

In storytelling terms, however, the play starts to lose its shine. I don’t want to view this production with too much comparison to the traditional story – but in places it’s hard to escape the conclusion that certain creative decisions have been made which actively reduce its emotional power. Immediately after killing her two children, this Media chronicles her swimming around in the pool in which she has drowned them, and declares “I feel great”. Either by choice or carelessness, some of the subtlety is lost, and despite what the staging would suggest, I found even less explanation of why she behaved as she did; in the end, I’m not at all sure whether the audience is invited to sympathise, pity or resent its character. Possibly all three, but not in a way which seems to cogently tie together those contradictions. I found myself sympathising with this Medea less at the end of the play than I did at the start, which – for a production letting her tell her side of the story – seems like a shortcoming.

Similarly, the climax of the play seemed a little rushed, and as a consequence ironically little focus is given to her feelings of isolation in a foreign land. Perhaps the play didn’t feel the need to spend time on this because of an expectation that audience members are familiar with the story, and a view that contextualising the before and after of the event would add emotional power.

What can be said about casting a man as the central performance? Having given this some thought, I can’t really come down one way or the other. Perhaps some viewers will find added meaning in the casting choice – personally I do not think it either contributed meaningfully nor took anything away from the story, beyond giving the opportunity for Francois Testory to showcase his androgynous and wide-ranging acting chops. My best guess is that the Medea story is often understood as a gendered characterisation associating femininity with passion and sentimentality, so casting a man is an attempt to universalise the play’s meanings. Either way, the performance is gripping, and is undeniably what keeps the audience engaged for the full 80 minutes.

Speaking to culturewhisper.com, Bartlett said this Medea had “all the grandeur and rage of Greek myth, but at the same time she seems very real”. In the end, I’m not sure it hit the heights of either aspect in the way I wanted, but there’s enough of both to make for an arresting and unfamiliar evening of theatre.

Featured Image: Manuel Vason

Get the best viral stories straight into your inbox!

Don't worry, we don't spam

Leave a Reply

Join the Badger Team

Apply today!

Latest Posts

Union obliterates the debate – unwritten requirement used to shut down free speech debate
Campus News
716 views1
Campus News
716 views1

Union obliterates the debate – unwritten requirement used to shut down free speech debate

Jordan Wright - April 27, 2018

Student society Liberate the Debate’s most recent event was cancelled over a lack of compliance with the Students' Union's (USSU) requirement for a neutral chair - a…

Verve Couture – Musicality, kitsch & ignition: the beginning of a series
Arts
163 views
Arts
163 views

Verve Couture – Musicality, kitsch & ignition: the beginning of a series

Ricardo Reverón Blanco - June 17, 2018

Pictured: Zac Black At Proud Cabaret audiences were spellbound as if at night at the circus, yet this was not like Angela Carter’s magical realist novel; Verve…

Fleabag on stage at The Old Market – review
Arts
184 views
Arts
184 views

Fleabag on stage at The Old Market – review

Florence Dutton - June 11, 2018

[caption id="attachment_35513" align="alignnone" width="2400"] Fleabag at Soho Theatre[/caption] Last Monday at 8pm at Brighton’s The Old Market, I sat myself down in my theatre seat eagerly awaiting…

Fleabag preview
Arts
178 views
Arts
178 views

Fleabag preview

Florence Dutton - June 2, 2018

[caption id="attachment_35513" align="alignnone" width="2400"] Fleabag at Soho Theatre[/caption] Following the mass success of the Bafta award-winning BBC Series, DryWrite and Soho Theatre are about to hit the…

Brighton Festival: Ezra Furman at the Dome
Arts
219 views
Arts
219 views

Brighton Festival: Ezra Furman at the Dome

Georgia Grace - June 1, 2018

Having completed my final semester of university with modules on punk history and queer arts, it was fitting that I rounded off my end-of-assessment celebrations by attending…

Arts
222 views

The Tempest review

Georgia Grace - May 30, 2018

As the sun begins to set over Hove Green, tinnies of Red Stripe are cracked open, tartan blankets are strewn, and families tuck into their picnic hampers.…

A Glass Half Empty review
Arts
217 views
Arts
217 views

A Glass Half Empty review

Georgia Grace - May 27, 2018

For those of us coming to the end of another year of university study, the prospect of careers, marriages and babies may seem a long way off.…

DollyWould at The Old Market review
Arts
208 views
Arts
208 views

DollyWould at The Old Market review

Alex Hutson - May 27, 2018

Sh!t Theatre’s DollyWould is a hilarious, thoughtful and experimental performance piece. The award winning show has the Sh!t Theatre duo integrating comedy, storytelling, personal experience and music.…

UCU Launch Petition to End the ‘Hostile Environment’ at Sussex
Campus News
330 views
Campus News
330 views

UCU Launch Petition to End the ‘Hostile Environment’ at Sussex

Billie-Jean Johnson - May 26, 2018

The Sussex branch of the University and College Union (UCU) has launched a petition calling for Vice-Chancellor Adam Tickell to end the 'hostile environment' at Sussex. The…

Arts
169 views

Shakespeare in the sun – The Tempest preview

Georgia Grace - May 24, 2018

In a world of dystopian King Lears and female Hamlets, Shakespeare’s classics are constantly being reimagined for the modern day. There’s something oddly refreshing then about the…

Review: Nick Cave Double Bill at The Old Market (TOM’s Film Club)
Arts
455 views
Arts
455 views

Review: Nick Cave Double Bill at The Old Market (TOM’s Film Club)

Sophie Coppenhall - May 23, 2018

What a phenomenal contrast these two films present when watched side-by-side. In essence, together they are capable of tracing inner and outer metamorphoses of their subjects. The…

Dollywould at The Old Market preview
Arts
207 views
Arts
207 views

Dollywould at The Old Market preview

Alex Hutson - May 22, 2018

From the 22nd May - 25th May 2018 DollyWould will be showing at The Old Market. An exciting new show, presented by Sh!t Theatre, who won the…

Exhibition: Io-sono Fedilouu
Artist Focus
307 views
Artist Focus
307 views

Exhibition: Io-sono Fedilouu

Ricardo Reverón Blanco - May 16, 2018

Last week artist Fedilou made her debut exhibition in the downstairs space of Morelli Zorelli, a quaint vegan Italian restaurant in Hove, featuring a collection of intimate…

Interview with Philosophy faculty and COGS director Ron Chrisley
Interview
215 views
Interview
215 views

Interview with Philosophy faculty and COGS director Ron Chrisley

Nikolaos Manesis - May 15, 2018

Ron Chrisley is a Reader in Philosophy, on the faculty of the Sackler Centre for Consciousness Science, and is the director of COGS (Centre for Cognitive Science).…

Adam review
Arts
290 views
Arts
290 views

Adam review

Ketan Jha - May 13, 2018

If you have been a stranger to the stage this spring and decide to see one contemporary show, let it be Adam. This reviewer went in entirely…

Brighton Fringe Preview: Nick Cave Double Bill at The Old Market (TOM’s Film Club)
Arts
331 views
Arts
331 views

Brighton Fringe Preview: Nick Cave Double Bill at The Old Market (TOM’s Film Club)

Sophie Coppenhall - May 13, 2018

In celebration of iconic Brighton local, legendary alt-rock musician (and episodic actor) Nick Cave, TOM’s Film Club are hosting a double-bill screening of his films at The…

Whimsical fairy-tale meets class war – Standard: Elite review
Arts
368 views
Arts
368 views

Whimsical fairy-tale meets class war – Standard: Elite review

Georgia Grace - May 11, 2018

Meta-theatricality and interactivity are becoming all the more vogue in contemporary theatre, and in a world where the arts are becoming increasingly open and democratised, I find…

A Year of Art Society: The Best Picks
Artist Focus
266 views
Artist Focus
266 views

A Year of Art Society: The Best Picks

Alex Leissle - May 9, 2018

  [gallery type="slideshow" ids="35385,35386,35387,35388,35389,35390,35391,35392,35393,35394,35395,35396,35397,35398,35399,35400,35401,35402,35403,35404,35405,35406,35407,35408,35409,35410,35411"]

More Brit(ish) than ever: A review of Afua Hirsch at Brighton Festival
Books
281 views
Books
281 views

More Brit(ish) than ever: A review of Afua Hirsch at Brighton Festival

William Singh - May 9, 2018

Afua Hirsch’s 2018 book - part memoir, part polemic - provokes mixed feelings. So too did her discussion of the topic at this year’s Brighton Festival. Don’t…

Ethnic-bioweapons: between conspiracy and reality
Science
364 views
Science
364 views

Ethnic-bioweapons: between conspiracy and reality

Luke Richards - May 8, 2018

Bioweapons exist, while ethnic-bioweapons are whispered conspiracies. Pandemics can fairly hazardous to human life, the 1918 Flu Pandemic killed 20-50 million people. A man made pandemic could…

Breaking: Spring referenda results announced
News
337 views
News
337 views

Breaking: Spring referenda results announced

Jessica Hubbard - May 4, 2018

Students have voted to support the BDS (Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions) movement, reject Prevent and adopt new Gender Equality policies. Results for the Students' Union referenda were…