Blueprint Medea at Finborough Theatre
Though Euripides’s classic Greek tragedy is referenced in the title, it merely serves as a parallel. Julia Pascal loosely follows the structure of Italian film director Pasolini’s adaptation of the text, but her production provides a powerful and hard-hitting female tale inspired by direct interviews with Kurdish freedom fighters, perfect for the intimacy and simplicity of fringe theatre.
In Pascal’s play, Medea (Ruth D’Silva) is a Kurdish freedom fighter who escapes to London. Entranced by the city, she develops a relationship with a waggish, London-bred Iraqi, Jason (Max Rinehart); however, once Jason’s racist father (Tiran Aakel) discovers the young woman is Kurdish, he immediately dismisses their romance and sets up his son with Glauke (Shaniaz Hama Ali), who he deems to be a racially suitable match – a match that Jason takes up, meaning Medea is cruelly spurned and returns to Turkey, but not before she enacts her revenge.
Unlike Euripides’s protagonist, who is openly calculating and cruelly exacting in her vengence, our re-imagined Medea is a victim of her ethnic identity. Pascal supports the story with a multi-roling quartet of performers and switches the narrative between Kurdistan in Turkey (where we see Medea’s freedom-fighting background) and London.
Initially, the performances seem shallow and caricatured, and there is a crude movement sequence at the beginning that makes one wince and worry about what is to come. But those concerns are swiftly dispelled as one realises Pascal has deliberately utilised the theories of Brecht within the piece and the multi-role performances are created to allow us to critically engage with the protagonist’s background and situation, understanding how her actions in the future are ingrained in her war-torn past, and not just sympathise with her for being rejected by a man.
Indeed, once the cocksure and cavalier Jason (bullishly portrayed by Max Rinehart) saunters into Medea’s life, this is when the production really starts to engage the viewer’s heart and head. The script becomes beautifully laced with Lorcaesque poetry, too, and it is so poignantly delivered by D’Silva that, despite her character’s callous revenge undertaken on Glauke, which results in a harrowing scene where D’Silva and Hama Ali depict revenger and victim with utmost sensitivity and conviction, one wants to follow Medea back to Kurdistan and see where the tragic narrative continues.
To have such a profound effect highlights the power and importance of fringe theatre and writers like Pascal providing a voice for these voiceless females onstage.
Photo: Isabella Ferro
Blueprint Medea is at Finborough Theatre from 21st May until 8th June 2019. For further information or to book visit the theatre’s website here.