Even though I’ve only just seen a production of Medea, I really wanted to see the Gate Theatre’s production, and I’m so glad I did. This production is different – it tells the story from the perspective of the children. First premiered in Australia, it was written by Kate Mulvany and directed by Anne-Louise Sarks, whose idea it was.
The play is set entirely in the boys’ bedroom, a dinosaur-wallpapered space with glow-in-the-dark stars and toys strewn all over the place. The audience sit on either side, and feel fully immersed in what is going on. Most of the time, the boys are alone, with occasional appearances from their mother.
The boys play, fight, jump about, and wait for their parents’ argument to finish. We – the audience – are familiar with the story of Medea – we know how this is going to end. The boys don’t, though. They wonder whether their parents are going to make up. They hope they will stop fighting soon, so that they can leave their bedroom. The eldest, Leon, dreams of winning his father’s praise in the arena while the youngest, Jasper, is excited at the thought of moving into “Dad’s friend’s” house, with its huge swimming pool.
To them, everything is a game. When they fight, they shoot guns at one another, but the guns have foam bullets. When they play dead, they see it as a joke. Leon retells the story of how Medea and Jason met, but we don’t know if this is the truth, or if this is a legend perhaps told to the children by their parents.
The two young boys playing the brothers are utterly fantastic. Two pairs alternate the roles, and at the performance I saw, Keir Edkins-O’Brien (Leon) and Bobby Smalldridge (Jasper) took on the roles. They were guileless and innocent, smart yet tragically unsuspecting. As Medea, Emma Beattie is also superb, conveying her complete love for her children even while she plans to kill them.
This is one of the most powerful and affecting plays I have seen all year. I’m so glad I made the effort to go – superb.