‘Moments of real beauty’: MEDEA ELECTRONICA – Ovalhouse

In London theatre, Opinion, Plays, Reviews by Laura KresslyLeave a Comment

Ovalhouse, London
Guest reviewer: Maeve Campbell

Two months in, and already ‘gaslighting’ appears to be the word of the year. Both Trump and Weinstein, who are often cast as toxically masculine villains in the press, have been accused of implementing such misdirection and manipulation toward their female accusers.

Medea Electronica runs with this idea, casting Jason as Medea’s gas-lighter, and relocating the Greek tragedy to 1980s British suburbia. Maella Faye performs her Medea to a synth backing, playing against a cast of eerie disembodied recorded voices.

There is a touch of BBC radio play to the voice acting employed, but this effectively jars against the still, thoughtfulness of the performance, particularly in the early portions of the show. This stillness unravels as Medea’s sanity does.

Atmospheric, synth-backed ballads pepper the piece. The song lyrics are inconsistently poetic, sometimes shakily constructed. But, the music is subtly produced, and beautifully, simply sung by Faye.

There are, however, some major issues in the thematic content of the piece, specifically in its plot diversions from the constantly performed and studied tragedy.

The 1980s setting is under-developed and seems like an excuse to justify synthesisers. Ideas about domestic spaces as female prisons are clear with Medea performing the dutiful housewife. Yet, these ideas don’t just exist in the past, and female domestic spaces are not radically different.

If Pecho Mama had been brave enough to play in a contemporary setting, the show would have had more impact. Also, a new twist in Jason’s narrative is quite problematic – he only exists as a spectral voice, and his impetus is not properly explored.

There are moments of real beauty in this show – a striking final image stands out. But it’s messily arranged and as it gets more eccentric, the momentum drops.

Like many recent Medea revivals, Pecho Mama has tried to make the audience understand Medea’s actions, but here, like with others, they fail in articulating this huge moment in the play. There is real promise in much of the show’s material though, and with a good dramaturgical clean-up it could be really special.

Laura Kressly
Laura is a US immigrant who has lived in the UK since 2004. Originally trained as an actor with a specialism in Shakespeare, she enjoyed many pre-recession years working as a performer, director and fringe theatre producer. When the going got too tough, she took a break to work in education as a support worker, then a secondary school drama teacher. To keep up with the theatrical world, she started reviewing for Everything Theatre and Remotegoat in 2013. In 2015, Laura started teaching part time in order to get back into theatre. She is now a freelance fringe theatre producer and runs her independent blog, theplaysthethinguk.com.
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Laura Kressly
Laura is a US immigrant who has lived in the UK since 2004. Originally trained as an actor with a specialism in Shakespeare, she enjoyed many pre-recession years working as a performer, director and fringe theatre producer. When the going got too tough, she took a break to work in education as a support worker, then a secondary school drama teacher. To keep up with the theatrical world, she started reviewing for Everything Theatre and Remotegoat in 2013. In 2015, Laura started teaching part time in order to get back into theatre. She is now a freelance fringe theatre producer and runs her independent blog, theplaysthethinguk.com.