Victim or monster, over the centuries Medea has provided inspiration to writers, playwrights, choreographers, filmmakers, painters … but few will have achieved the visceral impact of Jean René Lemoine’s Medea (Written in Rage), now showing at The Place.
It’s a one-man show, or rather, a one-person show, because the mesmerising performer François Testory has ‘the skill to do away with gender,’ in the words of theatre director Neil Bartlett, who translated the work from its original French and directs this performance.
As director Neil Bartlett explains: ‘This new Medea is an incredible mix of the ancient and the modern; one minute she is speaking pure tragic poetry, the next minute she is right down in the gutter. One minute she is a tragic heroine or operatic diva, the next she is like some Tennessee Williams heroine, all pills and alcohol (…)
‘She has all the grandeur and rage of Greek myth, but at the same time she seems very real.’
François Testory is an extraordinary performer who can hold his audience rapt for a full 90 minutes. Face powdered white, lips rouged, eyes heavily kohled, wavy hair of indeterminate colour, he is the perfect androgynous figure: not quite woman, not quite man, simply Medea.
Perched precariously on very high platform sandals which inhibit his movement, he stands before us and tells the story, his musical voice weaving a magical web that ranges from alluringly soft and tender to loud and raging and demented. His part-naked torso conveys a moving vulnerability; his arms follow his words, now spread wide like wings as Medea travels the sea with her new husband, now wrapped around her body in a protective gesture when she feels alone and rejected.
And the arms push down relentlessly as she narrates in horrifying detail how she drowned her two sons, following her rejection by Jason, who found it politic and so much more interesting to marry a young, pretty and white princess.
Phil Von’s soundscape, directed by the composer himself from a booth on the side of the stage, is an integral part of the performance: it places the action by creating atmospheres so skilful that at you often feel as though you’ve travelled back in time into a mythical past. It also creates loops of sound that echo Testory’s words, and create new layers of emotion.
Lemoine’s Medea stands for all outsiders who try to fit in - she repeatedly tells us how she straightened her hair and bleached her skin - only to be used and discarded. And in this extraordinary production, where everything comes together - Testory’s performance, Von’s soundscape, Chahine Yavroyan’s subtly effective lighting, and Neil Bartlett’s outstanding translation and stage direction - it provides us with an evening of pure transporting theatre, as well as much food for thought.
Age Recommendation: 16+ (contains adult content and strong language)
|What||Medea (Written in Rage) Review|
|Where||The Place, 17 Duke's Road, London, WC1H 9PY | MAP|
|Nearest tube||Euston Square (underground)|
05 Oct 17 – 07 Oct 17, 20:00 Dur.: 90 minutes
|Price||£16 (concessions £12)|
|Website||Click here to book via The Place|