THEATRE REVIEW: Medea was commendable but left something to be desired
The story of Medea is one of those uncomfortable stories that can make you squirm, even centuries after it was written (it first appeared in Greek mythology in 700BC). It is hard not to be moved by a tale of a desperate woman murdering her children to steal the future of her estranged husband. So, how was it that I left the Black Swan adaptation of Medea feeling somewhat underwhelmed?
It was certainly not the performances. The young leads (Jalen Hewitt as Jasper and Jesse Vakatini as Leon on the evening I saw) were perfect from start to finish. Their performances engrossed you in their story, as we watched voyeuristically on in their final hour alive. Both have a very strong future ahead of them and I cannot wait to see them on the stage in the future. Similarly, Alexandria Steffensen was utterly convincing as the complicated, frantic Medea, as the burden of her deeds crept up on her as the play progresses. Likewise, the stage design was gorgeous to behold, with the children’s bedroom serving as a powerful stage for the drama to unfold.
(Images by Philip Gostelow)
However, I was still left with the sense that the production was lacking something. The script offered some touching and poignant moments, but it was somewhat let down by pacing issues. It was an intriguing concept telling the Medea myth from the perspective of the children. However, this approach meant the titular character was not properly developed, and the reasons for her deed were not adequately explained. As we were watching from the children’s perspective, their naivety meant Medea never really had an opportunity to communicate the complexity of her feelings, beyond assurances that she loved them dearly despite what she had to do. This left the production without a sense of building tension and satisfying resolution; it was more like one long scene of children playing with each other with a sudden and dramatic ending that felt lifted from another story.
All in all, Medea was far from a train-wreck. All things considered, it was more good than bad, and the performances alone were well worth seeing. However, without a strong through line, Medea unfortunately had some of the timeless power sucked from it.