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Medea (Written in Rage) is a play that knows what it wants to say, and delivers it loud and clear. The monologue, enhanced by a prime use of lighting and sound, pulls the audience in from the very beginning, putting forth in the first ten minutes some of its most vivid and disturbing images, and it never lets the character falter from the centre of the scene. In fact, the real hook of this whole performance is Medea not as a story, but as a character that seems to be whispering a long-held confession, relieving herself of a weight she’s been carrying for far too long, rather than someone who’s retelling a well-known story.
The original story of Medea starts when she fell in love with Jason and decided to help him steal the Golden Fleece and later escape from the island of Colchis, Medea’s homeland. The couple got married and had children, but after many years, Jason decided to marry a much younger and fairer girl, and Medea, overtaken by rage and jealousy, killed her own children and Jason’s new wife. Her actions have been considered unforgivable by history, she is one of the most frowned upon characters in classical Greek stories because, if you must draw a line, child murdering is where you draw it.
But Medea is also a story of desire, love, and belonging. The sacrifices Medea made for Jason are forgotten, the horrors that Jason put her trough are forgiven, and her final actions are all she’s held accountable for. In this version, however, she’s the hero, and Jason is cast to the side not only as the villain, but as a secondary character. In this monologue, Medea puts herself back in the narrative not by sugar-coating what she’s done, but by owning it and showing us what it cost her. The brilliance of this piece is its candour, the direct but never vulgar engagement it has with the story. When Medea re-tells how she allowed Creon to abuse her for Jason’s enjoyment, she doesn’t shy away from it, but owns it, almost challenging the audience to blame her once more.
The only moments in which she hesitates seem to be dictated more by pain than by shame, and they all deal with her children. Portraying Medea and her sons is always tricky, as showing a caring mother will seem to contradict her actions, but showing a careless and distant mother takes out the emotional impact. This time Medea is a caring mother, and she’s torn apart by what she does, but she feels like it’s what she has to do, as Jason hasn’t given her any other option. This Medea is a foreigner, exiled from her homeland, who has lived on the run for years. She had found a home in Jason, but he kicks her out together with their children, so Medea has to deal with the consequences.
This one-man-show is brilliantly acted by François Testory, who’s so convincing as Medea that you don’t give a second thought to the fact he’s a man. His performance is not limited to the delivery of the text, but his rich with singing, bits in French, Italian, and Spanish, and a stage presence that totally controls and owns the scene. There’s a second presence on stage, making it so that there’s no doubt in the audience about Medea’s awareness of being watched, played by Phil Von. He also provides the music and sound effects live, working with two laptops and a loop pedal, creating a proper soundtrack to the piece. This is a brave experiment with a classic text, that deals with issues of gender fluidity, infidelity, and how new media can reinvigorate the literary canon.