NT LIVE: Medea ★★★
National Theatre Live
Monday September 22nd 2014
Medea, based on the myth of Jason, who sought the Golden Fleece, and herself being his wife and the granddaughter of the sun god Helios, was adapted for the National Theatre earlier this year for a sell out run, and has been screened to cinemas worldwide, before now returning to screens for encore performances.
First thought to have been staged in 431BCE, being performed in ancient Greek in which it was originally written, follows the story of Medea, who breeds to sons in exile, but when separated from her children after leading a new life, she faces banishment, and soons goes on to try and take revenge on everything that she once held most dear to her.
The production opens with children watching tele, and then the nurse coming in, who was once a friend to Medea, and narrates the story of Medea and Jason, and brings us up to date of who Medea is, and the struggles that she is having with Jason.The chorus, who act as mothers and maids from Medea's home, then speak of Medea as the bottom of the stage, which was before covered, opens up to reveal of a forest, which Medea claims to have killed someone.
Kreon enters and soon exiles Medea, before Jason arrives, giving himself and Medea a heated argument, ending in a longing kiss and him promising to keep Medea and his children financial safe once she is exiled. This soon leads in Aegeus arriving, hearing the news of Jason's new life and the wedding. Medea begs Aegeus to take herself and her children into his kingdom, and promises to give him children, and he agrees to give them shelter in his palace, as long as Medea and the children make their way themselves.
Between all these scenes so far, at the top of the stage, on the landing from the stairs, we see the progression of Jason and Kreusa's, and at this point, a dance routine is applied, as Medea, below, carries out her plan to poison a cloak, one which she chooses to give as a wedding present, which will see Kreusa's skin burn once touches, and puts it in a box and sends her two sons to take it up to the wedding, in a hope that Kreusa saves her children's lives from exile, and once a scene in which Jason returns, the news comes that Kreusa has agreed to save the two sons, but Medea must still leave.
The play moves forward at a fantastic pace, leading right up to the moment where she takes her weapon to kill her sons, offstage, after a powerfully directed dance piece from the ensemble, and dramatic music accompanied. The scene following with Medea and Jason is extremely powerful, with Helen and Danny portraying these ancient characters with such justice, in a revamped production that has little flaws.
The direction, lighting, costume, design, and every other part of the whole production has clearly been thought through with most consideration, and it all just adds to the powerful and dramatic presence that all the actors give with their energies on stage. Another mention must also go to the ensemble cast and on stage musicians, who without having them on stage, the story of Medea would not have been able to have been as beautifully told as it was on the Olivier stage but such a brilliant company.
For me, I felt very drawn to Medea's actions throughout the whole play, and we are asked at the beginning whether we can believe Medea, in the one and a half hours that she is presented on stage, could truly go through all the revenge and actually kill her flesh and blood, and I believe that I was so captured by Helen's performance of Medea, that I don't think anyone that I could think of make such a believable character do the most unthinkable things to revenge the one man she once truly loved, then what Helen threw herself at in such a short space on time on stage.