Medea adapted by Wendy Haines – The Gallery on the Corner, Tooting Bec
The final show in By Jove Theatre’s Violent Women trilogy is the most violent of them all, Euripides’ Medea. The story is an archetype of female anger and revenge, but By Jove are anything but predictable. Their exceptional staging presents the story in new, imaginative ways. Using little more than a double bed as a setting, SJ Brady, Sinead Costelloe and Rosa Whicker perform the Medea myth in a Tooting shop unit, renewing the impact of its hard-burning, visceral horror and showing the mental disintegration of a woman who has been cheated and humiliated. Wendy Haines’ new version is a monologue for a modern Medea, brought from her own, unnamed country by her husband, Jason, who abandons her for the younger Glauce. The new couple expect her civilised acquiesence. Meanwhile, passing men crow “Cheer up love, it might never happen.”
By Jove’s production, directed by David Bullen, cleverly splits Medea’s psyche between the three performers. Sometimes Medea is one, sometimes three, and when the terrifying finale arrives her two sons are, as she murders them, both separate and a part of her. Haines’ writing is bold and beautiful, using contemporary language but wringing poetry out of despair. The production’s promenade staging is inventive and highly effective. It opens with black-lipped figures miming eerily to ‘I Will Survive’, crackling out of a tiny speaker. The action revolves around a Tracy Emin-esque unmade bed, Medea’s bedside table equipped with gin, unopened bills and the Little Book of Calm. The audience stands throughout the show which, although only 45 mins long, contains depth and quality worthy of much larger venues and far more experienced companies. Visual effects are meticulously chosen to disrupt and disconcert. The small space is strewn with Rainbow Loops, as Medea’s young son plays up – she picks them all up, every single one. Later, Glauce becomes a white dress suspended over the stairwell to the basement as she meets her end, strangled with gold. As Medea dips her knife in her bedside coffee mug before slicing her children’s throats, it emerges not red but gold, and the final tableau of destruction is splashed with gold paint.
The three performers who deliver an interwoven narrative of mental breakdown combining stylised dance moves with naturalistic acting, all in a space the size of your living room. They are all captivating and SJ Brady, whose performance earlier this year in By Jove’s version of The Bacchae again shows she is a performer to watch. Both Here She Comes and now Medea have been top quality fringe productions. By Jove pull off one of hardest tricks in theatre by presenting old stories in new ways, and making it seem natural. By Jove’s talents deserve bigger spaces and audiences and more attention, and we will surely be seeing a lot more of them.