But what if Medea got to tell her own story? Not a Christmassy story, for sure, but a real alternative to the feel-good sugariness of the traditional Christmas ballet, The Nutcracker, which takes over the ROH main stage for the duration of the festive season.
A vibrant and colourful piece of dance-theatre co-produced with The Royal Ballet, Ruination hails from Lost Dog artistic director Ben Duke’s original, irreverent, inquisitive mind. And if you are familiar with his work, you know not to feel too comfortable as he gently eases you into what gradually becomes a probing meditation on the harm we do each other.
READ OUR INTERVIEW WITH BEN DUKE HERE.
Appropriated staged in the ROH’s underground Linbury Theatre, Ruination is set in the underworld. The stage is dominated by a vertical metal ladder that leads inexorably down. Hades, the ruler of the underworld, played with tremendous pizzaz by Jean-Daniel Broussé, bizarrely kitted out in a plastic skirt and flouncy top, introduces the action.
We are to be the jury in a joint trial of Medea (Hannah Shepherd) and Jason (Liam Francis) with Hades’s wife Persephone (Anna-Kay Gayle) acting as Medea’s lawyer.
Anna-Kay Gayle as Persephone, Jean-Daniel Broussé as Hades in Ruination. Photo: Camilla Greenwell
Over 100 superficially anarchic minutes a stupendous cast of seven enact the story, constantly asking, what if? What if Jason had been complicit in Medea’s killing of her own brother? What if she hadn’t really meant to kill his new bride? What if the children had been murdered not by Medea, but by a baying mob unleashed by Jason himself?
Hannah Shepherd’s Medea is a frail, immensely relatable woman; Liam Francis’s Jason a selfish, feckless man. There is tremendous chemistry between the two dancers, their scenes together carrying an unusually powerful erotic charge, from the moment she anoints his naked body with the magical potion that will make him invincible, to their slow dance together as fresh new lovers.
Three musicians – pianist Yshani Perinpanayagam, jazz singer Sheree Dubois and haunting countertenor Keith Pun – run through an eclectic soundtrack, that ranges from Rachmaninoff to George Harrison/Nina Simone, by way of a couple of baroque arias, Steve Reich’s Clapping Music and Lorraine Ellison’s devastating rendition of Stay with Me.
Boldly designed by Soutra Gilmour, with efficient lighting by Jackie Shemesh, Ben Duke’s Ruination combines humour, poignancy and some serious questioning of Euripides's brutal tale. The anachronistic elements he builds in bring the story, with all its moral ambiguities, closer to us.
Ruination is, in short, a properly meaty and very entertaining alternative to the floss of the usual Christmas fare. Enjoy, but expect the final punch to the gut.
Age Guidance: 14+
|What||Lost Dog, Ruination review|
|Where||Royal Opera House, Bow Street, Covent Garden, London, WC2E 9DD | MAP|
|Nearest tube||Covent Garden (underground)|
01 Dec 22 – 31 Dec 22, 19:45 Sat mats at 14:30 Dur.: 1 hour 30 mins no interval
|Website||Click here to book|