This gut-wrenching and raw retelling of the tragedy, adapted from Euripides’s original by Robinson Jeffers features a truly memorable performance from Sophie Okonedo.
There is plenty to admire about this simply stylish production of this Greek tragedy which is filled with intensity from start to finish.
Set in the kingdom of Corinth, the story follows that of Medea who is living with Jason, someone for whom she has sacrificed her family and more, only for her world to be completely shattered by the revelation that he is marrying another woman. She is then considered to be an outcast in the kingdom, with King Creon forcing her and her two children that she shares with Jason to be exiled. This in turn leads her down a dark and dangerous path for revenge, climaxing in a horrific manner.
Every aspect of this production is filled with tension and atmosphere, with director Dominic Cooke ensuring the simplicity of the staging means that there is an intimacy about the story unfolding that keeps the audience thoroughly gripped. By staging it in the round, it heightens then sense of rawness of emotions that are on display – but equally ensures that none of the audience miss out on what is unfolding in front of them. Elsewhere, credit should also be given to lighting designer Neil Austin and sound designer Gareth Fry for creating such a chilling atmosphere that really comes into its own at the climax of the show.
Adapted by Robinson Jeffers, this is a tight and concise adaptation of the original play by Euripides that has plenty of power to shock and makes us examines the characters through different perspectives. It should be said the moments that characters are off the stage, forcing them (of course) to raise their voices – sometimes it feels as though some of the dialogue is missed (for me anyway). But this aside, as a script there is a nice contrast between the darkness of Medea’s darkening attitude and being forced to go down the path that she does, touched with moments of humour (thanks to Ben Daniels as Aegeus) that catch the audience perhaps slightly off guard but adds a different layer to proceedings.
From a psychological point of view, it is also fascinating to watch unfold – particularly as we see Medea’s contrasting moods and outlook on the position she has been put in – she takes control of the situation in eventually the only way she knows how and her actions are the result of someone out of options. Her actions are horrific and unforgivable – but here the audience can feel a bit of compassion for her as her love for her children battles against her increasing hatred towards Jason. The way in which she is treated the male characters and dismissed is heartbreaking to watch and the way in which she turns the tables on Jason in particular really shows the character’s inner strength. Although , we never see the violence that she unleashes it is just as powerful by hearing it described or the use of sound effects that will stay with you after the show has long finished.
Sophie Okenado as Medea is stupendous, capturing her pain, her anger and her strength to stand against those who will do whatever it takes to tear her down. It is a completely compelling performance to watch, capturing the many different facets of the character perfectly. She is well matched by Ben Daniels who plays all the male characters, giving them enough distinction to ensure that the audience knows with ease which character he is. Meanwhile, Marion Bailey (Nurse), Penny Layden (3rd Woman of Corinth), Jo McInnes (1st Woman of Corinth) and Amy Trigg (2nd Woman of Corinth) – all hold their own as they try and convince Medea to take a different path.
This stripped back production really allows the drama to take centre stage and apart for the modern dress it does feel like we are experiencing Ancient Greek theatre in the 21st century. A production that is really not to be missed.
Medea continues to play at the @Sohoplace until the 22nd April. To book tickets for the production visit: https://sohoplace.org/whats-on/medea