Medea at the Almeida Theatre
A powerfully evocative, thought-provoking adaptation of the Greek classic, Rachel Husk’s Medea doesn’t fail to impress. The revitalised script pulls the audience into a fascinating grey area, forcing them to confront the darkest, most selfish corners of human nature. The story is modernised, set in the age of iPhones and social media. Original characters take the form of their contemporary equivalents: Kings become business tycoons and princes become successful actors. The real highlight is Kate Fleetwood’s absolutely spellbinding performance
Some may say that Euripides’s Medea is dark enough and that it would be difficult to portray something more sinister than a mother butchering her own children. However, the original version is very black and white and Medea is either clinically insane or pure evil. Husk goes deeper, inviting us to understand the torturous effect that divorce can have on someone who, having given the most precious years of their life to someone they love, is betrayed and discarded. The audience is encouraged to sympathise with Medea who is torn apart by the idea of splitting her life.
The experience of relating with a troubled mind destroying itself through logical steps is, arguably, more heart-wrenching than witnessing someone’s obvious psychosis manifesting itself in an unequivocally inexcusable crime. Husk makes it easy to see how Medea has been drained of everything positive and refilled with nothing but vicious hate, bitterness and bile.
In order to enable people to empathise with Medea despite her inexcusable actions, Husk is forced to alter key elements of the original story. This causes the play to drag a little towards the end, as it gets lost in a form of abstract symbolism that undercuts its initially strong momentum. The way in which the altered story is consolidated seems forced but is necessary to sustain the essence of this particular adaptation. Overall though, the combined impact of Husk’s perspective and Fleetwood’s amazing performance leave the audience too staggered to think the show is anything but marvellous.
Medea is on at the Almeida Theatre from 25th September until 14th November, for further information or to book visit here.