Medea: a musically enchanting experience

Based on Robin Robertson’s translation of the Greek tragedy by Euripides, Khameleon Productions’ presentation of Medea was nothing short of brilliant. The all-BAME cast and crew brought new life to the myth. The revenge plot of the play, following Medea whose husband, Jason, has abandoned her and their children to marry the princess of the land, was thematically expanded to deal with identity, belonging, femininity and fidelity very effectively. The evocative set (designed by Lewis Hunt and Isabella Rooney), a stage full of birch trees, filled the space and meant the scenes never felt bare even when only two members of the cast were onstage. This, coupled with the lighting (designed by Christina Hill), gave an eerie aesthetic to the piece that unsettled the audience from the get go. This enhanced the cast’s incredible performances.

Charithra Chandran’s Medea was genuinely unnerving. Her sinister treatment of the character in long and challenging monologues and movement set-pieces avoided melodrama and sold her insanity well. A large portion of her speech was played to the audience which Charithra made become discomforting and immersive for a viewer. The typical arrogance of a Greek hero was portrayed well by Joel Stanley in the role of Jason. His smooth talking cool exterior helped reach some well timed comic beats and his panicked interior was well exposed as the play reached its cathartic conclusion. Some lines were a little rushed which, as someone who doesn’t know the myth well, made some moments hard to follow, however he provided a very impressive contrast to Medea. Karekin Johnson provided some much needed comic relief in his brief scene as Aegeus. He quickly created a strong rapport with the audience and was fun to watch play off of an ever disturbing Medea. The intensity and, at moments, absurdity of the play’s situation was grounded by his characterization of the king of Athens.

The organic background noise and seamless crossing of live music and pre-recorded sound was commendable

The real stand out of the production was the chorus. Though their subversion from a traditional Greek chorus may have made the plot suffer, every moment they were onstage was captivating. Their music weaved in with new spoken word, written for the production, which tied in with Medea’s psyche enchantingly. They really portrayed the conflict of the character and blew the whole audience away with their synchronicity and harmony. The music and sound itself was serenely somber yet conveyed the tension of the piece. The organic background noise and seamless crossing of live music and pre-recorded sound was commendable, though there were perhaps more moments that might have benefited from silence. The one downfall of the piece was some of the movement. At times, a lack of energy and perhaps slightly simple choreography meant that moments of choreographed movement fell a bit flat and felt less compelling than the rest of the production. That being said, there were bold choices made in certain scenes in how movement was used.

Overall this was mesmerizing theatre. The space of the O’Reilly was used effectively; the performances were, for the most part, outstanding; and the music and chorus were enough to sell me the show. I am so glad that they have sold out almost every performance because this needs to be seen.