Medea – Oxford Playhouse

Choreography: Thomas Noone

Reviewer: Katy Roberts

In its U.K. premiere as part of Dancin’ Oxford’s tenth birthday celebration, Thomas Noone’s production of Medea is a vivid reimagining of Euriphides’ powerful ancient tragedy. When Medea is betrayed by her unfaithful husband Jason, who wishes to marry the Princess of Corinthe, Medea seeks a terrible, bloody revenge against those who have wronged her – and not even her children are safe from her rage.

The performances from the six-strong company are incredibly impressive, appearing entirely effortless throughout, even during the production’s most intense final scenes, as beautiful moments of fragile intimacy are shattered by aggression. Jim Pinchen’s stunning score works perfectly as the show’s soundtrack, with its sharp electronica and urban influences, which work well to heighten the tension throughout, building towards a fierce crescendo as Medea moves towards exacting her terrible revenge. The show’s set is incredibly simple, the production choosing to set the tone of different scenes using different lighting techniques and colours.

It is a shame then, that this production is so difficult to follow for its audience. With the entire company dressed in varying shades of steel grey and blue, it is often difficult at times to work out which dancer is portraying which character, especially during some of the show’s less well-lit scenes, particularly the two women playing Medea and Glauce, the Princess of Corinthe. Where this production is most frustrating is when trying to figure out which of the male members of the company is playing Jason, and which is playing the King of Corinthe. At several points during the evening, one felt that it’d only be possible to truly work this out by waiting to see which performer meets a gruesome end, so to speak, alongside the Princess. Further confusion is also caused by the inclusion of a dance sequence, which, after Medea’s poisoning of the King and his daughter, sees previously deceased characters begin to dance once again with Medea and the remaining characters, again causing doubt among the audience as to who is who. The artistic decision to have several parts of scenes occur at far stage right, is at times frustrating, as these are concealed from some within the audience (this reviewer included), which means that potentially enlightening parts of some scenes are missed entirely.

This is an impressive production, showcasing the true skill and talent of its performers, and is supported well by its music and staging. Sadly, it is let down by a lack of clarity in regards to the differentiation between characters, and a fondness for hiding the action away in corners. An interesting concept, but perhaps not one for those new to the work of Euriphides.

Runs until 5 March 2016 | Image: Manu Lozano

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The Central team is under the editorship of Selwyn Knight. The Reviews Hub was set up in 2007. Our mission is to provide the most in-depth, nationwide arts coverage online.

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