Drummer Sam Cox thrusts a drumstick skyward, interrupting the second refrain of Kate Bush’s Wuthering Heights playing through The Old Market’s PA. A synthwave drum beat gives way to the crescendo of a dial tone, itself drowned out by a reversed track of children laughing. These strange soundscapes, meant to inject into Euripidean tragedy the zeitgeist of 1980s England, effectively foreshadow the eclectic mix of theatre and musical performance that constitutes three piece Pecho Mama’s Medea Electronica.
This retelling is essentially a story of Medea’s marital and mental breakdown, with every other character represented only by voiceover. She has just moved her family to London on account of her increasingly distant husband’s work. A series of domestic scenes depicts typical struggles. A teacher calls about a meeting to discuss support for her older son. Both kids think there are monsters under their new bed. A family lawyer rings Medea on Jason’s behalf, informing her that he wants sole custody of their children. Her madness accelerates from there, with an attendant costume change, broken glass and bloodied hands. The eventual revelation that Jason is gay and married Medea to ensure receipt of his inheritance sends her over the edge.
Her madness is portrayed with an apposite amount of ambiguity. We are never sure how neglectful she is of her children, left only with the solicitor relaying her husband’s contention that she is an unfit parent who may or may not have locked one of them in a car.
The play is bolstered by scriptwriter Mella Faye’s performance as the title character. She handles the shift between monologue, phone call, and musical numbers with considerable aplomb. Vocal effects ranging from delay, octaving, and a variety of typical harmonies blend to create an eerie atmosphere. The short runtime of an hour ensures that the play remains gripping throughout. However, this short duration is not without its setbacks, as the play’s exclusion of other characters means that viewers get no sense of Medea’s marriage prior to deterioration or of Jason as anything but caricature. The other minor gripe relates to the clarity of voiceovers through The Old Market’s audio system – a few key lines were either lost in the mix or hard to discern. This is especially unfortunate given how well decorated and generally comfortable the historic venue is.
Logistical shortcomings, however, are not enough to detract from the value of this contemporary performance. At the end of the night, Pecho Mama created a worthwhile show that successfully blends a haunting take on 80s electropop with Greek tragedy.
Featured Image: The Old Market