| LONDON, July 21
LONDON, July 21 Helen McCrory of Harry Potter
fame is a chain-smoking Medea and pop duo Goldfrapp provides a
riveting score for a new staging in London of Euripides's
2,500-year-old play that may not be the "Medea" of all time but
is certainly one for this age.
The adaptation, which had its press night at Britain's
National Theatre on Monday, sets the scene as the audience
enters to see Medea's two young, doomed sons lying in sleeping
bags on stage, watching television under the watchful eye of
On a floor above them is a room with a banquet table set
with a wedding cake, Their father, Jason, played by Danny
Sapani, will marry Kreusa, the young daughter of King Kreon of
Corinth in a nuptial that has fired Jason's first wife into a
At the back of the set is a primeval forest that could serve
double duty for the witches from "Macbeth" and where Medea howls
her curses and will later kill her sons.
The nurse, played by Michaela Coel, is the Cassandra of the
evening, who in her prologue says there is only one way the play
can end - and returns at the conclusion to say, in effect,
"Well, I told you so."
McCrory, reprising in some ways her Narcissa Malfoy witch
from the Potter films, but also deploying the charm of former
British Prime Minister Tony Blair's wife, Cherie, whom she
portrayed twice on screen, throws her all into the role of the
spurned wife who gets revenge by killing her own children.
"I might be choked with misery, famished by grief but there
is still life in me," Medea wails, before unearthing a sack
containing a poisoned garment for Kreusa to wear, and a dagger
to kill her sons. "I'm not finished. There's trouble come to the
house of Kreon."
McCrory, all winsomeness and guile one minute, and spitting
poison the next, is hardly off stage for a minute of the
90-minute production, directed by Carrie Cracknell, whose
staging of "Blurred Lines" about rape culture was a hit for the
National last year.
The adaptation, by the National associate director Ben
Power, updates the language to modern idiom but dispenses with
some of the nuances of other versions.
He pares the role of King Kreon, played by Martin Turner,
who as a result gives in a bit too easily to Medea's plea to
stay an extra day before being banished from Corinth.
In one of several of Power's updatings that drew laughs from
the audience, Medea reassures the nurse who has seen her
kowtowing to Kreon that she has not suddenly gone soft.
"Do you honestly believe I would kneel and weep in front of
a man like that except to get my own way?"
That extra day will prove to be the undoing of everyone.
Jason, the same one from mythology whom Medea helped to
steal the Golden Fleece from her own father in far-away Colchis,
is the perfect male hypocrite. "It seems I must defend myself,"
he says. "I married, I made you happy, I civilised you - you
were nothing when I found you."
"We are strangers here ... we would have starved ... I can
keep you and our family safe."
But essentially this is a play about women driven to the
extreme of what the text says only one woman has ever done
before, which is to kill her own children.
The women of Corinth are the Greek chorus, questioning Medea
about her intentions and asking how she could do such a thing.
They also perform twitchy dances to the Goldfrapp score
suggestive of the pressures on women who, as Medea says, must
split in two to give birth. She says she would rather go into
battle like a man than ever do it again.
In the end Medea overcomes her love for her children, and
for Jason, to provide him and his by-then dead bride, who has
been reduced to a heap of bones by the poisoned robe, with the
wedding day from Hell. The audience, though, gets a great 90
minutes of theatre.
(Editing by Steve Orlofsky)