A NOTE FROM THE DIRECTOR
Through history the play has remained a cultural sounding board for saying the unsayable and doing the unthinkable: it has been used to test our deepest preconceptions of gender, our profound acceptance of compromise, our fear of truth; and it has been used, of course, as a voyeuristic spectacle, a window into that resilient taboo, maternal ambivalence…
- Rachel Cusk, UK Author
Medea is not an easy play. It deals with issues societies would prefer did not occur (and are unwilling to face or deal with). It deals with a woman who does in the final instance kill her own children - something we never truly understand or forgive. In this carefully observed and nuanced modern adaptation by Kate Mulvany and Anne-Louise Sarks, we are very close to home. The setting is Jason and Medea’s sons’ bedroom, a space that physically reinforces the intimacy and personal nature of this story. We are voyeurs, for we can only watch and bear witness, as we follow the trajectory of Jasper and Leon’s final hour. We identify with them, as we are powerless to change their fates.
Medea is about a betrayal, the end of a marriage, and the subsequent breakdown of a family unit. It invites us to consider powerful resonating issues that exist in our society; parenthood, domestic violence, the experience of trauma, the effects of isolation, loneliness, betrayal and despair, and leads us to ask how could such a terrible thing happen, and who are the victims?
This work is also a fresh and dynamic adaptation (After Euripides’ play which was first produced in 431BC). If recognition and remembrance of the myth/story of Medea are part of the pleasure (and risk), so too is the invitation to consider change. Adaptations are never merely simple reproductions of the original, because the very process of adapting is and must be its own transformative thing.
Kate and Anne-Louise’s adaptation, set in a contemporary household, is a world that is so ‘achingly familiar’, it pricks at our consciousness, our intellect and our compassion as we attempt to decipher the motivations that could push a woman and mother to betray and destroy everything she loves. Was it to hurt another? Is it indicative of inherent weaknesses and hubris? Is Medea the archetype of a woman who disdains the feminine, the archetype of our collective fears?
What I see and experience is a human being suffering and find motivation for her actions even as they repel me. For Medea has great integrity. She must be true to her heart. This is a heroic stance. In response to his betrayal she deals Jason the most painful blow possible by killing his future. He will have nothing at the play’s end. Past, present and future are all completely destroyed. Medea is also suffering because she is oppressed. Choices are being made for her. She is trapped and has nowhere to go. Medea wants Jason. If she can’t have his love she will kill his life.
From Kate Mulvany: We need to sit with her in the horror of it all, because we have been part of it. From the moment the audience enters the boys’ room, they are part of the act. And as a society, we all play a part in these deeds.
I want to thank Kate and Anne-Louise for allowing me the privilege of directing their magical script and tracking with us alongside the work as we have developed it in the rehearsal room. I want to thank the four wonderful young men who are making their professional stage debut and doing it so beautifully. Heartfelt thanks to Alexandria who has brought wit, compassion, intelligence, and so much more, to her devastating portrayal of Medea, and to James and Mollie at WAYTCo, Clare Watson and Black Swan for their encouragement and support of me personally. Finally, a big thank you to our creative and production team who have reminded me just how brilliant a collective of artists working in collaboration can be.
Image: Cast and Director Sally Richardson in rehearsals. By Philip Gostelow.