Image – Iris Gaillard & David Burrows.
What happens when a deep emotional connection is spurned, betrayed, dismissed and ignored? What dark depths is a wounded psyche capable of descending to in order to avenge an anguished psyche?
Produced by La Mama the Australian premiere of Facing Medea by French playwright Francois Cervantes is a contemporary retelling of the shocking classic Greek tragedy. Translated by Melissa O Reilly, this is not a full performance of what is perhaps the best known of all Greek tragedies but an echo of the essence of the story.
Distilled down to an hour this an account of the disturbing tale of a woman who is so powerful in force and nature she has beguiled one man to foresake all to be with her. A woman who's devastation by his betrayal compels her to commit unspeakable acts of barbarism.
It is the voices of three women (Iris Gaillard, Annie Sofia Thorold and Carmelina Di Guglielmo), the chorus, who stand before us and retell what it is they have born witness to. They are reporters, using microphones at times to amplify their words. Their performances are strong, complimenting and contrasting with each other.
They inhabit a simple white space, plain and uncluttered (set design Dann Barber, lighting design Rachel Burke). We focus only on them. There is nothing here to distract, no artifice.
In her notes director Jenny Kemp says she first encountered this work in its original French. She did not understand the language but the content of this ancient story has always been in various states of translation down the ages. Language may differ yet the themes and ideas always remained relevant. Three quarters of the way through the performance each actress begins to speak in different languages, the native tongue of each woman – French, Italian and Swedish. This is jarring at first, though subtitles are projected on the back wall, you very quickly realise words maybe unintelligible and even un necessary. It is the passion in the performance that continues to convey narrative.
There are moments when the reporting is broken by enquiries made between each other as to how their own experiences compare with what that have witnessed. "Have you been in love?" This is not only a question between two, it is a question to us all.
And here lies the value and relevance of re visiting a tale constructed so far away from our own modern times. The passions, ambitious calculated actions and even depraved behaviour born of betrayal are universally human. As they were then so they still are today. It doesn't matter that this story is from another time long past – it really doesn't matter that the words can be at times, unfamiliar. What continues to resonate are the universal themes of love, loss and betrayal.
As it was then, so it is today, the audience is catapulted along an emotional rollercoaster ride that can leave us to reflect on our own lived experience. It is a revelation that so much of our singular experience really is shared by all. We realise that in Facing Medea we are in fact facing ourselves.
La Mama presents
by Francois Cervantes | translated by Melissa O Reilly
Director Jenny Kemp
Venue: La Mama | 349 Drummond St, Carlton VIC
Dates: Sep 25 - Oct 6, 2019