This is Medea, but not as you know her. Transported from ancient Greece into 21st century London, this Medea is a fierce Kurdish soldier turned asylum seeker.
A challenging and brave production.
Blueprint Medea tackles complex issues, focusing on how easily the truth can be refracted by differences in perspective. Medea considers herself to be a bold freedom fighter, but those fighting against her consider her to be a terrorist. She states that she is from Kurdistan, only to be told that "It’s not on any map". After all, as Jason-Mohammed states, to most British people, it’s all just Iraq or somewhere in the Middle East and they’re all considered to be Arabs, denying their intricate multi-cultural history. It’s clear that the accepted version of our world is being challenged here; Why do we believe in some man-made lines on a map and not others? Language is also shown to be a constraint; Medea’s sharp mind is restrained by her broken English and she refuses to speak Kurdish (her native tongue that her own mother no longer dares to speak) with a Turkish interpreter.
In fact, there’s so much packed into just over an hour that you can’t help but wonder why they chose to interpret Euripedes’ Medea at all. Written and directed by Julia Pascal and based on real interviews with Kurdish fights living in the UK, it’s understandable to think that with so many complex topics to discuss that hanging them from a familiar frame might help to make them more accessible. However, there’s enough substantial material in here for its own independent show, and waiting for the key Medea plot points to occur feels detrimental rather than helpful. The first half has a steady pace as we get to know Medea and her predicament, but the second half hurtles along as we crash towards the inevitable finale. Ruth D’Silva’s Medea is a complicated, intelligent woman, and for her to be overwhelmingly destroyed by her lover leaving her to the point of filicide seems to undermine her own agency. It also feels uncomfortable to joyfully follow the tale of an asylum seeker in her search for safety, transform into a murderer, forcing her to follow the path dictated by very worst fears of tabloid readers.
The rapid transitions between time period and place were at times difficult to follow, and Medea’s apparent memories (or hallucinations?) of a woman with a rope without her neck were never satisfyingly concluded. Perhaps we’re meant to experience Medea’s own confusion at arriving in a confusing and foreign land, although this might be a generous interpretation.
Nevertheless, Blueprint Medea is made great by its very strong cast. Everyone apart from D’Silva slips between characters when needed, but each actor has their own star moment. Tiran Aakel is convincing as the rage-filled father, Amanda Maud plays the reserved Suzy with heart and adds plenty of humour as the English class teacher, Shaniaz Hama Ali makes the naivety of Glauke believable and Max Rinehart is excellent as the ‘bad Muslim’ Londoner Jason-Mohammed, whose dilemma in wishing to please himself and his father is painted across his pained eyes. Each character has an ambidextrous quality: no one character is truly good and no one character is truly bad, just as in reality.
However, it’s D'Silva who steals the show in her lead performance as Medea. D’Silva has a beautifully striking and expressive face, which flickers with a thousand emotions. Her Medea is witty and flirty one moment and stern and wise the next. She is so compelling that you can’t take your eyes off of her. Her torment as Jason leaves her is intense and powerful, the polar opposite of her controlled and calculating performance when she speaks with her love rival Glauke or faces enemy oppressors. The only flaw in an otherwise faultless performance is that her Medea seems timeless. During the flashbacks there isn’t any tangible sense of her youth when we see her at only 15 years old.
A challenging and brave production. There are some flaws throughout, but life is rarely clean cut and you can guarantee you’ll leave a little more educated about the complexities of the world we live in. There’s plenty of food for thought here and the incredible cast, D’Silva especially, and its fascinating premise make Blueprint Medea a gripping watch.