02
Sep
13

Medea: the river runs backwards

 

MEDEA The River Runs Backwards

Zen Zen Zo

The Old Museum

19 August – 7 September

 

Reviewed by Xanthe Coward 

 

Past and present blur together, as Medea tries to reconcile the events of years gone by, and her own guilt, before she dies. Time and space shatter, as the echoes of Medea’s deeds reverberate through her life. How did someone so strong, so intelligent become so overwhelmed with the need for revenge? How can someone live on, when they have cut out their own heart?

 

 

Medea-Poster-Final

 

Euripides’ story of the vengeful murderess, Medea, is thousands of years old and our reception to it hasn’t changed; it’s as shocking as ever to process. Dramaturg Ian Lawson’s treatment of the classical text is the best version I’ve seen – clear and real – but having been Zen Zen Zoified, it’s lost a little of its power in the translation from page to stage.

See it for yourself this week, before it closes on September 7!

 

The ancient world of King Creon is created by ghostly columns and drapes in a spacious studio at the home of Zen Zen Zo, The Old Museum (Design by Christine Urquhart & Eleanor Gibson. Costume design by Julian Napier). We’re in the middle of it, while a maelstrom builds around us, the performers using every available space. Newest Resident Director, Drew de Kinderen, has reverted back to the way things used to be. No, not the ancient, but the old Zen Zen Zo, just as Michael Futcher and Helen Howard had begun to lead the company in a bold new direction that promised a perfect blend of the old and the new. Sure, it’s the physical and visceral site-specific production that Zen Zen Zo are known for, and thrilling for teachers and students, especially with a physical theatre workshop offered after every matinee performance, but for me it’s disappointing. The impact of the most recent work (of course I’m referring to 1001 Nights, Therese Raquin and Vikram and the Vampire) was wonderment followed by a solid punch in the guts and a quick glance at our own lives to consider whether or not we were on track.

 

medea_lauren

 

While Medea: The River Runs Backwards might make you think twice before killing off your ex’s new wife and the children you bore him, that’s the text talking, and not this underdone production. And it’s not underdone in any obvious way because there is plenty of well-trained and practiced chorus work, booming vocal work and intricate staging in and around those damn Corinthian poles. It’s just that somehow, it misses the mark.

 

I know many others, including Sam, vehemently disagree. Sam loved it, and was mightily impressed by every element. In fact, everything that I found wanting, he thought was spot on. But we agree that the immense talent of Lauren Jackson, who plays Medea, makes her the standout of this production. This is the performance that was perfectly contained, as opposed to underdone or OTT (can we bring back classical voice training now, please, Austraya?), and leaving us to wonder about this mysterious woman who has the gal to kill her own children. We never see the typical theatrical signs of a mad woman (darting of eyes, wringing of hands, tearing of hair), thank goodness, but we see her journey towards a state of madness that easily envelops her, drowns her – the river that runs backwards – and leaves us in the aftermath, on the mud banks by the wayside, along with everyone who thought they knew her, wondering WHAT THE?

 

While the soundscape, by Thomas Murphy is perfectly matched to the action, I somehow came away with a Katzenjammer song in my head (and visions of Madonna singing Like A Prayer, clad in Mad Maxified Desperately Seeking Susan corsetry, lace and leather. I know. Never mind)…

 

 

I love Lauren’s internal work, and I wonder if the chorus had rehearsed within her presence for longer, could a little of that have rubbed off on them? Yes, you can learn a lot of the craft of acting through osmosis. I also enjoyed the point of madness and horror reached by Jason, played by visitor, Eric Berryman (he’s off again after this production to study with Anne Bogart).

 

medea_laurenanderic

 

This 90-minute retelling of the age-old tragic tale is less than spectacular, but at the core of the work we still see the magnificent classical text, and some good training and creative talent, for which Zen Zen Zo are renowned. If you can get a ticket (most of the shows were sold out weeks ago), go see Medea The River Runs Backwards and make up your own mind.

 

 

Advertisements

0 Responses to “Medea: the river runs backwards”



  1. Leave a Comment

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s


%d bloggers like this: