Medusa at the Crypt Gallery
If we want to think about “nasty women” then Medusa is perhaps one of the first that comes to mind. In this production, the myth of the Gorgon monster, with a headful of snakes, is humanised and modernised. 27 Degrees, a multicultural collective of artists who create sensory audience experiences in unusual spaces, have created an imaginative and immersive production; in the darkly lit Crypt Gallery, the many voices of Medusa speak to us. Through puppetry, sound installations and contemporary dance we are haunted by the tale of rape that formed the ancient myth and the thousands of incarnations of this female in the past and present. Medusa becomes not a monster but a woman shamed for her sexuality.
Be warned, there is a lot of standing during this show and in the narrow passageways of the crypt it is hard to see the performers. At times, this undermines the piece, especially when the view of hand puppets and projections is blocked by a sea of heads. However, for the most part, it is successful. The actors are skillful at moving theatregoers around the narrow tunnels and alcoves and there is lots to explore from journals, paintings and voice recordings. The play gains momentum; it is slow to begin with, which in part is due to the audience’s apprehension. Soon spectators gain confidence and follow the different Medusa’s around the Crypt.
Oral storytelling forms a major part of the piece, with each Medusa telling us her story. At one point the actors tell each other tales in a tent by creating shadow puppets with their hands. Music lilts through the tunnels and effectively increases the tension and anticipation for the inevitable conclusion: the death of the monster. Audience participation is not always pleasant – at one point a spectator is asked to choose a Medusa who then removes her clothes and has contemporary “slut-shaming” insults written on her skin.
The core of this production is the female body, which has and always will be a potent and feared force. The historic setting of the Crypt links the performance with the past, the audience with the present, while the living bodies of the many Medusas transcends both time and place. This is a special production and well worth a watch.
Photo: 27 Degrees
Medusa is at the Crypt Gallery on 8th and 9th September and at the Brunel Museum’s Thames Tunnel from 27th until 29th September 2017. For further information or to book visit here.
Watch the trailer for Medusa here: