To choose Seneca over Euripides (thus making this a Roman rather than a Greek tragedy) is a brave decision by Kudos and one that occasionally backfires. For the most part, this is a decent production but there are niggles throughout that hinder enjoyment.
Seneca’s Medea does not differ too much from that of Euripides in terms of story but rather in presentation. There is the opinion that Seneca’s tragedies were not written for theatrical performance but were rather to be read at dinner parties. Therefore, Liz Rodgers as Medea must be commended for largely exercising a firm control over the wordy language. She is certainly at her most impressive during the moments where Medea is at her most calm and most malevolent. Her delivery creates a real sense of foreboding, however this sense is lost in the more passionate moments. Perhaps getting overexcited or trying to fit the show into the time slot, some of the words during Medea’s angrier and madder moments feel rushed and lose the audience’s attention.
The chorus are similarly up and down. Speaking apart or in quick succession, they overcome the verbosity of their speeches with their performance. However, this falls apart when attempts to speak in unison are made. Badly out-of-time with each other, these sections simply sound like noise. Tricky at the best of times if not meticulously rehearsed, it would have been better to abandon the idea and simply divide the lines between the two chorus members for a less jarring experience.
The music and sound choice for certain scenes varies between the atmospheric and the hilariously inappropriate. Why is a brief guitar riff played when Creon stands up? Why is Jason apparently delivering his final dialogue with Medea through a terrible megaphone behind a curtain? And a crash of thunder when Medea reveals her scheme is needlessly melodramatic, even by the standards of classical tragedy. Lighting is also a bit all over the place; at one point, I noted that Medea’s ankles seemed to be lit very well but for some reason the rest of her wasn’t.
For the most part however, this is a decent classical tragedy. Costume and a more modern aesthetic work very nicely with the sparse white performance space. As Seneca’s Medea is largely a monologue for the title character, the show can be carried by the performance of its lead actress. Though there are times when it seems that parts of this translation of Seneca are misunderstood by either the actors or the audience, the overall impression is one of competence and a potential path to something more.