Left – Brigid Gallacher, Naomi Rukavina, Jennifer Vuletic. Cover – Naomi Rukavina. Photos – Ponch Hawkes
Who needs television soap operas when you can go to the mother of all drama, that of a honest-to-goodness Greek tragedy — Medea, with a seemingly simple plot, actually laden with juicy, scandalous, even insane twists and turns, which will appeal and shock at the same time.
For those unfamiliar with Medea, she was the daughter of King Aeëtes of Colchis, granddaughter of the sun god Helios, who eventually married Jason, leader of the Argonauts. The union between these two Greek mythological superstars, produced two sons, Mermeros and Pheres, and were this a typical fairytale, they would have lived happily ever after, but a tragedy is not a tragedy unless it involves revenge and blood.
The great Greek tragedian, Eurepides wrote the play, Medea, which focuses on Jason’s betrayal and abandonment of his family, so that he may take the hand of another, that of princess Clauce, king Creon’s daughter. But as if this were not enough of a proverbial dagger through Medea’s heart and soul, Creon orders Medea and her sons to be exiled from their home, so as to not pose any threat to the newlyweds.
Although she sheds many tears, and unleashes bellowing guttural sounds like a wounded lioness, Medea is by no means a frail paper flower, she is instead a woman with a most evil plan, that of completely and absolutely destroying the man whom she once loved and even betrayed her father, and killed her brother for.
Director Andrew Blackman’s interpretation of this classic play is true to the style in which it would have been presented in Ancient Greek times: a handful of actors playing multiple parts (men acted both male and female roles) and a chorus.
In this case, Naomi Rukavina portrays a multidimensional Medea, mad, vulnerable, insanely raw, Philip Cameron-Smith in the role of the quite despicable Jason the adulterer, Christopher Brown playing slave, king, slave (the rest of the male roles), Jennifer Vuletic as the humorous yet empathic Nurse, and then, along with Brigid Gallacher they form the chorus, which symbolise the mouthpiece of society and morality.
Rukavina did a fabulous job in channeling the intense emotions, any woman in Medea’s position would experience under the circumstances. As I watched her on the stage, I felt connected to her, and I couldn’t help but wonder if such a charged performance would take a toll on her emotionally as well as physically? I know that her hurt and despair affected me, and I was just a spectator. Although, I could have very well been part of the chorus which Vuletic and Gallacher composed, wailing whilst cupping my face in my hands, that’s how invested I became in the plot.
Medea is packed with flowery and intricate dialogue, but the familiar topic – adultery – makes it simple for anyone to grasp, even the younger audience members who were present on the night I attended, were completely captivated by the way Medea had been wronged, and how she dealt with her circumstances. Not admirably by-the-way. Downright scary actually. But for the century she lived in, her extreme revenge seems almost justifiable. Almost.
Complete Works Theatre Company presents
Directed by Andrew Blackman
Venue: Union House Theatre, University of Melbourne
Dates: 28 – 31 July, 2015