Greek tragedy could be considered to be one of the origins of theatre as we know it today. An organised event where people flocked to Greek amphitheatres to watch plays such as Euripides’ Medea. Now, more than 2000 years after its premiere, this tragedy has inspired the devised performance After Medea. The new piece of theatre took some of the core elements of the original play, and twisted them to fit a modern-day retelling of events.
Before commenting on the show itself, it would be worth mentioning a bit about the space that FMYouthTheatre chose for this performance. Using the Amphitheatre at Il-Gnien l-Għarusa tal-Mosta could be seen as a clever nod to the Greek amphitheatres that the original tragedy might have been performed in at the time. Although not as big as the theatres of ancient Greece, this theatre space is open air and consists of circular seating with a bare acting space in the middle. Moreover, by starting the performance at 8:15pm, the company also utilised the sunset present in the background as a sort of ‘backdrop’ onto which the story was told.
The core idea of what exactly love is was something that the company chose to take from the original tragedy into this devised work, even if the wrapping around that core was changed. As part of this ‘wrapping’, new elements such as additional text and the continuous physical sequence of the party were added. Both these elements helped support one another; the former gave context and plot to the story of Medea and Jason, while the latter allowed the story to unfold in front of the audience’s eyes. Another key factor of the piece was the presence of three very distinct styles– text-based monologues, choral exchanges, and physical sequences. However, the transitions between these styles were made in a very natural manner, as they flowed into one another and pushed the story forward.
Despite the changes in the text and the additional physical sequences, one important component that the company kept from the original text was the present of a Greek chorus.
[QUICK THEATRE HISTORY LESSONS – a Greek chorus refers to a group of actors which form an entity that judges and comments on the actions of the protagonists within the story.]
The company honoured this tradition throughout the performance in several instances. Some of the most notable moments were through the concerned exchanges between the characters as they spoke outside Medea’s house, or through the party sequence which was created as a backdrop for the crucial meeting between Medea and Jason. Once again, the ensemble was able to ebb and flow with ease between being characters in the story and commentators of the story which they also formed part of.
The main issue that I had with the piece was with the way it ended.
The audience was transported back in front of Medea’s house, where the anxiety and tension of the characters continued to build. The climax then came once Medea killed her children and the build-up dropped suddenly. The scene then transitioned into a physical sequence revolving around Medea’s own confusion and internal struggle due to the murders she had just committed. I felt that the sequence could have been shortened, the reason being that because it was unnecessarily long it lost the intensity that was created during the previous section. However, I also felt that the last image of the children of Medea dropping off the back of the stage was very powerful and symbolic of the actual killing which she does.
All in all, I think that this devised piece was very innovative and thought provoking. The company successfully managed to take some of the essence of the original tragedy, especially the theme of love, and use it as the fuel to create an exploration of what exactly #LoveIs. Whether you are aware of Euripides’ Medea or not, this modern retelling was able to strike a balance between staying true to the original text, and diverting creatively from it with the intention of creating something new.
With this only being the third devised piece which FMYouthTheatre has created – the previous two being a piece based on Antoine de Saint-Exupéry’s the Little Prince (Aberdeen International Youth Festival 2016), and Ilbieraħ ‘il Quddiem (Ziguzajg Arts Festival 2016) – I would definitely make it a point to #watchthisspace.
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