Monday, 14 January 2013

I'd Kill For You Medea

Written by: Andrew Crane (@AndrewRCrane)

Etcetera Theatre, London

It would be fair to say that theatre company Action To The Word set the bar a bit too high for themselves with their recent critically acclaimed production of A Clockwork Orange at Soho Theatre. I’d Kill For You Medea doesn’t quite reach this bar, but is nonetheless a very neat piece of theatre, just quite underwhelming. 

For those unacquainted with the Euripides’ classic tragedy, it’s the story of Medea’s revenge on her husband Jason after he leaves her for Glauce, daughter of Creon, the King of Corinth. From the preset of atmospheric indie-pop, it’s clear that Action to the Word are going for anything but a classic take on the myth, and as the cast enter in black tops and blue jeans, they instantly set the mood for this minimalist modern telling.

The minimalism however was where this piece faltered; at times it felt more like watching a radio play or a rehearsed reading rather than a theatre performance. The five actors sat on chairs in a semicircle facing the audience, and often wouldn't leave their chairs for lines. Even when they did, their movement around the space was very limited and unfortunately this didn’t make the piece very visually compelling.

Music was used throughout to break up scenes and modernise the piece and was highly effective in doing so.  From the haunting renditions of Leonard Cohen’s ‘Dance Me To The End Of Love’ and the beginning and end of the piece, to versions of The Cardigans’ ‘Lovefool’ and Foo Fighters’ Everlong, the cast managed to show off some impressive vocal talent, each song being sang to a backing track of an acoustic guitar or piano. There is often a danger when modern music is used in a classical piece of it clashing horribly with the story, appearing forced and clichéd, but Action To The Word’s versions were beautifully atmospheric and intelligently used, so much so that they were highlight of the piece.

Despite the underwhelming visuals of this play, the acting was of a high enough standard to hold the audience’s attention, particularly Camilla Rockley as the unhinged and vengeful Medea, and Neil Chinneck as Jason, the unfortunate ex-husband in the path of her wrath. The climactic scene between the two as Medea exacts her revenge is quite powerful, which could be down to the slight increase in movement allowing Rockley and Chinneck to explore their characters’ physicality, it certainly benefits immensely for it.

As a radio play this would have been excellent, it’s just a shame that the actors', whose vocal work is excellent, weren’t given the chance to make the piece more visually exciting. As a company who have been acclaimed for their exciting physicality, I'd Kill For You Medea was an oddly directed piece, and hopefully not idiosyncratic of future productions.

This production was part of the PNPA festival which runs throughout January. 

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