Medea – Gate Theatre – Review
The play starts with what looks like an empty stage. We see the inside of a child’s bedroom, complete with a desk, two beds, a wardrobe and a mass of toys and other bric-a-brac scattered around the floor. Slowly we notice that there are two people on stage, lying motionless in a terrible foreshadowing of what is to come. The two children, Jasper and Leon, are playing dead in a typical kid’s game. One comes to life and starts to attack the other before the play begins in earnest.
This play is based on the ancient Greek tragedy written by Euripides which is believed to have been first performed over 2400 years ago. The story of Medea and her terrible crime is long enduring and in recent years there have been a variety of new interpretations, often psychoanalytical or feminist, trying to give an answer to why or how Medea was capable of this act. This updated version sets the events in modern times. It was written by Kate Mulvany and Anne-Louise Sarks and was first performed in Sydney in 2013. This adaptation puts the emphasis squarely on the two kids, as the boys try to make sense of an adult world.
There are three cast members, with Eileen Walsh playing Medea as a troubled and distant woman, somewhat confused and haunted. She emerges on stage at various times through a locked door. She hugs her children and tells them how much she loves them before disappearing off stage again. The rest of the time is spent with the two children who try to figure out what exactly is going on. They know that their parents are meeting to discuss their future but little else.
On opening night, the two actors playing the parts of the children, Jasper and Leon, were Oscar Butler (10) and Jude Lynch (9) respectively. The part of the two boys is shared with two other boys (Luke O’Donoghue and Elijah O’Sullivan), so in a sense, the play is being performed by two different casts.
It would be hard to discuss this play without mentioning the terrible case in Newcastle, Co. Dublin which is currently in the headlines. While the subject matter of this play is difficult enough to deal with in the abstract, this story has made it quite real. The play does not make light of the situation and does add an insight into Medea’s troubled mind.
The two children are alone on stage for the majority of the performance. They dance, shout, play and sing, as any normal child would, as they wait for outside forces to intervene. The idea to see the play through the children’s eyes is an interesting one but it does leave the viewer removed from the action. At one point the children strain to hear what is happening downstairs and you can’t help but share their feelings, that the more interesting action is happening elsewhere. The two child actors are impressive and hold the attention of the audience throughout. It is a dark and chilling production and the end of the play is deeply affecting, even if the story is all too real.
Cast: Oscar Butler, Jude Lynch, Luke O’Donoghue, Elijah O’Sullivan, Eileen Walsh
Director: Oonagh Murphy
Set & Costume Designer: Alyson Cummins
Lighting Designer: Aedín Cosgrove
Composer & Sound Designer: Jane Deasy
Associate Director: Doireann Coady