Medea

Many readers will be familiar with the experience of almost falling asleep in a lecture theatre; it is probably less common for the urge to arise while a Greek tragedy is in full swing, but this is the intriguing situation in which the audience of Assembly's Medea risk finding themselves. And although accommodation for the month of August is admittedly expensive, there are cheaper places for an hour's kip at this year's Fringe.The subject matter of the play is gripping – a family in turmoil, political exile, a deranged bloodlust. Unfortunately the company consensus seems to be that the best way of bringing the long speeches of classical verse to life is to speak them directly to the audience, often immobile, one after the other after the other. Stella Duffy's irritatingly 'relevant' translation, with its constant references to 'refugees' and the 'stateless', doesn't help a great deal, reducing a complex work of poetic exploration to an hour-long Amnesty International advert. There's a cheap but bulky set consisting of a couple of stone-clad archways either side of a big red sun, to let you know that a) we're in Greece and b) Medea is in some vaguely-conveyed way connected to the sun. The generically beady boho costumes mean it's hard to tell if we're actually in Greece after all – it's just about possible that this is deliberate.Perhaps most baffling, however, is the fact that all three male characters are played by the same actor, in similar outfits, with an only slightly moderated gruff and angry voice. His take on Jason in particular seems to place us in a particularly shouty corner of Albert Square – these scenes, unwittingly funny and unintentionally soapy, had the unfortunate effect of making me mentally alter his lines to fit the play's confused, but occasionally small-time gangland tone: 'Gerroutof my palace!' ''appy Christmas, Medea,' or, in a summary of his underlying character imperative, 'Shut it Medea, you slaaaag.' Which probably wasn't what Euripides had in mind.

Reviews by Richard O'Brien

Performances

The Blurb

‘A foreign wife does not look quite so fine beside the elder statesman’. Euripides' drama of alienation and filicide, in a modern adaptation by Orange Prize nominee Stella Duffy, starring Nadira Janikova and Richard Fry. Directed by Sarah Chew.