Medea, Almeida Theatre review: Culture Whisper says ★★★★★
The final instalment of the Almeida Greek season is certainly the boldest as it renders Euripides’ ancient tale of Medea hardly recognisable.
The historic heroine, who kills her children to punish her adulterous husband, becomes one of the most boundary-breaking, complex and unflinching female voices we’ve seen on stage.
In her first foray into stage-writing, controversial feminist writer Rachel Cusk wrings out the revenge tragedy into a fresh, bitterly raw exploration of a ravaged broken home and the toxic judgments and standards imposed on wives and mothers.
Having made her name as a writer with candid explorations of the trauma of both motherhood and divorce in confessional bestsellers A Life’s Work and Aftermath, Cusk brings the same deeply personal perspective to the Medea myth.
Gone are the politic: this tragedy is utterly, inescapably domestic. A chorus of yummy mummies rocks baby dolls and spouts patronizing platitudes. Medea and Jason argue down the phone with such alarming accuracy we could barely bear to watch. The two children struggle to make sense of it.
Under the direction of her husband Rupert Goold, Kate Fleetwood is a tour-de-force in the title role. With a mixture of predatory power and increasing desperation, she makes the notoriously difficult character vivid and relatable. Without ever trying to made Medea likeable or easy to watch, Fleetwood forces the audience into her agony and demands: why are you here? She certainly gives Helen McCrory's Medea a run for her money.
Towards the end, the staging grows a little full on and the taut tension unravels, particularly in a messy messenger scene told in verse. But there’s such potency and power to the central vein of the story that the patchier peripheral characters and increasingly over-wrought production distract rather than detract from the overall experience.
|What||Medea, Almeida Theatre|
Almeida Street, Islington, London, N1 1TA | MAP
|Nearest tube||Highbury & Islington (underground)|
25 Sep 15 – 14 Nov 15, 8:00 PM – 10:00 PM
|Price||£10 - £38|
|Website||Click here for more information and to book via the Almeida|