The Berkovian Medea

Euripides’ classical tragedy, of one woman’s quest for revenge and the terrible lengths she is willing to go to inflict pain on her wayward husband, has been performed thousands of times since its original conception. MuchMuchMore Theatre Company’s new production seeks to breathe life into Medea through a fluid, choral and very original take on the play that is largely successful, despite a few flaws.

Prepare to be entranced.

The play is performed in the style of Stephen Berkoff’s ‘In yer face’ theatre, which focuses on using highly choreographed physical theatre and music to tell visceral, uncompromising stories. We follow Medea, who, after being abandoned by her husband Jason for a younger woman, swears revenge and devises a plan that destroy both her former love and his new bride, using her own children as the principle weapon.

Much of the play is told through a large chorus acting as narrators, filling the audience in on the relevant backstory of our characters and offering windows into the mental state of our protagonist. This technique is remarkably effective, creating a dynamic and energetic performance that looks stunning. The physicality of the performers is truly excellent and they move so fluidly, as if they are working with one mind to create beautiful visual tableaus that illustrate the emotion and stakes of every scene. The addition of drums, played onstage by the company, also allows the performers to control the rhythm and tempo of each scene, helping to create pace and maintain a sense of tension during the play, that heightens the emotions already in play. As a piece of physical theatre, the show truly is joy to watch, and rarely will you see a company with such raw talent working in such synch at the Fringe or, indeed, any theatre festival.

The play’s only real problem is it never really reaches the emotional heights that the plot demands. One of the great things about Berkoff’s style is that it is meant to exaggerate and bring out the most raw and primal of human emotions. Here, though, while the stakes are certainly high, the choreographed nature of the performance means it comes off as very clinical, and the true, monstrous nature of Medea’s revenge never seems to manifest, either for the audience or the characters. There isn’t the grunginess, seediness or raw human pain that punctuates Berkoff’s work, and for a play that is essentially about the most intimate and painful of situations (a family break up), this was a sore loss.

Despite this, The Berkovian Medea is a marvel, and I would recommend that anyone interested should give it a watch. Prepare to be entranced. 

Reviews by Joseph McAulay

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The Blurb

A fluid, physical theatre interpretation of the classic Greek tragedy. Captivating images combine with live vocal soundscapes to create an enthralling choral production in Berkoff’s dynamic and visceral style. The company’s 2011 production of Berkoff’s Agamemnon was described as ‘breathtaking’ and one reviewer commented: ‘So stunningly good that, even among all the thousands of great shows on offer, I saw it twice in three days’ (