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.



I finally completed my Almeida Greeks trilogy when I saw Rupert Goold’s new production of Medea. Like the two previous plays in the season, it’s a fairly radical new version of Euripides’ classic; a loose adaptation rather than a close interpretation. Novelist Rachel Cusk has set her version in the modern day: Medea, played with firm intensity by Kate Fleetwood, is a writer devastated by her husband’s betrayal. As he plans a future with his new, younger lover, she is left to look after their two young children alone, forced to move out of their home and facing criticism on all sides.

At its heart, the play is about one woman’s suffering, and Cusk does a good job of allowing us to empathise with Medea. The play opens with her in the middle of the stage, standing silently, hair over her face, as her parents, sitting on either side of her, comment harshly on events and seem to suggest that Medea is in some way responsible. In some respects it has a distinctly feminist slant, as Cusk suggests that men leave their women to bring up the children and run off when they get bored, but the women don’t get off lightly either, with the chorus of yummy mummies repulsive in their smug judgement of Medea.

I was particularly impressed with the child actors, who were painfully believable in their behaviour: the youngest railing against the injustice of having to leave his big house, declaring “I hate you!” to his mother; the eldest, more aware of his mother’s feelings, trying to quench his little brother’s moaning and declaring support for his mum.

The play did seem to lose its way during the last twenty minutes or so, with a confusing explanation from a dual-natured Messenger as to what happened next. However, the final revelation was, to me, entirely unexpected yet totally in keeping with what had gone before.

While far from perfect, this play got me thinking about the roles of men and women – society’s pressures on women in particular – as well as the profound effect emotional upheaval has on children. I’m glad I completed my Greek trilogy.


Euripides’ Medea is a powerful dramatic tragedy, and in this National Theatre production, directed by Carrie Cracknell, it is allowed to shine. The almost unthinkable taboo of a woman who murders her own children is explored in this very dark play, in a new version by Ben Power.

Moral ambivalence rules in this modern-dress production: Jason (Danny Sapani) is a pragmatic politician, while Aegeus (Dominic Rowan) is cautious and diplomatic. As a consequence, Medea’s behaviour is both rooted in the real world and deeply shocking. Helen McCrory gives a stunning, visceral performance, evoking both horror at Medea’s dead and sympathy for her predicament. I particularly liked the dancers, whose increasingly distorted moves came to represent the terrible nature of the situation. An excellent production.