Culture critic Holly enjoys a new twist on a festive classic at the RSC.Written by Holly Reaney on 17th December 2017
REVIEW: Medea, Written in Rage at the REP
Culture Critic Verity Stirling reviews the "provocative" and "brilliant" performance of Medea, Written in Rage at The Rep
‘Maman est avec vous
Maman est avec vous
Euripides painstaking familiar Medea has never been heard like this before. Written by Jean-René Lemoine, directed and translated by Neil Bartlett and performed by François Testory, Medea, Written In Rage is a provocative and liminal imagination of the classical Greek tragedy shown at the REP 17th-18th of November. Medea abandons her homeland to embrace her love for Jason, is abandoned by him for a young, pretty, white princess and in a monstrous act of vengeance commits infanticide.
“His semi naked torso conveyed an uncomfortable vulnerability as it ricocheted and contorted
Engulfed in a purple silk gown with golden lining (created by the world-renowned Mr Pearl), François Testory slowly emerged from the darkness into a single spotlight and a microphone to uniquely deliver Medea’s story first-hand. François Testory gave an extraordinary performance as Medea, standing on high platform sandals which inhibited the movement of his lower body, his operatic and mystical voice combined with his subtle and troubling physical gestures created a paradoxical seductively monstrous individual. His semi naked torso conveyed an uncomfortable vulnerability as it ricocheted and contorted, spread vast when Medea annihilated her family, and his arms wrapped around himself in self-contained protection when she felt rejected or lonely.
The director Neil Bartlett encapsulates Testory’s performance as he states he has ‘the skill to do away with gender’ which creates the Otherness that is interesting in this performance. His powdered face, rouged lips, deep eyes and greyish tasselled hair embodied an androgynous figure able to hold the stage completely for 90 minutes.
This production was simultaneously rooted within, as Bartlett states, ‘the ancient and the modern’ as the piece is filled with tragic poetry similar to the classical Greek mythology, making reference to Iseult, Brunnhilde and Penthesilea, but also seems to place Medea as a Tennessee Williams type heroine as she sits drunk by the pool waiting for her husband.
Mr Pearl’s costume design signified a sense of the politic as Testory constantly moved and altered the dress to represent how Medea has become shrouded by Westernisation. The golden silk which Testroy wraps himself in signifies the legendary biblical and mythical defiant women she is tied to.
“Medea, Written in Rage gave a new perspective by giving Medea her own voice
Phil Von composed and performed a live soundscape from the side of the stage, which created a fully immersive atmosphere as Medea’s words were looped on the speakers around you. The live music made you feel present in the mysterious and liminal setting and atmosphere of the performance, drawing it all together.
Medea, Written in Rage gave a new perspective by giving Medea her own voice. This not only portrayed the damage she wrought on asonason, the princess and her children but also characterised her as the repercussions of Western colonisation and the patriarchy. A brilliant performance.