Brave venture

Medea

Venue: Jericho Arts Centre

Dates: February 1-24, 2002

Reviewer: Jane Penistan

Anouilh's modern version of the Greek myth of Medea retains all the terror, horror and inevitability of the Greek tragedy. Like the Greeks, Anouilh has all the really gory killing done offstage and reported by messengers. By this means the full horror is realized by a witness and the effect of that experience adds horrifying intensity to the recounting of the deed. This is a well-known, often employed theatrical device and is by far the best way for a playwright to shock the audience into appreciating the full horror of the murder or mutilation.

In this production, the inexperienced director, Kendra Fanconi, has not trusted the wisdom of the text and has tried to improve on it by introducing shadow shows to depict the tragic death scenes of both Jason's new bride and Jason and Medea's two children. Unfortunately, this is neither technically nor dramatically successful. The stark white backdrop is the ideal tabula rasa for this drama, but the addition of the mobile criss-crossing, moving wire lines becomes distracting, and the hanging and taking down of laundry, tedious.

Not only is the director of this production inexperienced, the cast are too. Both Medea and Jason are too young to have suffered all the experiences which are retold in the dialogue, and not mature enough to cope with the situation as it now presents itself. Medea (Nneka Kidada Croal) struggles valiantly with her long speeches, but she is never believable as a woman who has endured what she has reportedly endured or steeled herself to commit the deeds of violence of her past.

Jason (Tyler McClendon) appears as the good-looking, personable young man Medea fell in love with ten years ago, not the hard bitten Argonaut and ambitious perfidious wife-betrayer of this play. Kathleen Dick, as the nurse, gives the most convincing performance of the evening. She has an understanding of the text and a sensibility in delivery which the other cast members lack. Jaime Ogden as the Boy, who is the messenger, has the ingenuousness of youth and this gives his performance credibility.

This production is a brave venture for United Players Company. An opportunity has been given to an inexperienced director and young and inexperienced actors to try their skills. This, for them, is a great learning experience. They should be grateful to United Players for a rare chance seldom afforded to aspiring directors and actors.

2002, Jane Penistan


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