St. George’s West (Venue 157)
4 stars ****
ON THIS FRINGE, debate about the Medea story – one of the great founding myths of the west – has been dominated by the huge success of Zecora Ura’s eight-hour Hotel Medea at Summerhall. Those who care about this mighty story, though – with its primal battle of the sexes, and two children doomed to become victims of it in the most shocking sense – should not miss this powerful alternative version of the tale by Swedish writers Suzanne Osten and Per Lysander, translated into English by Crister Dahl, and directed by Osten herself for Lung Ha’s, Scotland’s company dedicated to work with adults with learning difficulties.
As pure theatre, the show undoubtedly has its weaknesses, and its awkward moments; some of the casting seems decidedly strange, as Stephen Tait’s supposedly five-year-old Jason Junior looms over his father Jason, in bulk and force of personality. Yet Osten and Lysander’s script is so powerful, and Nicola Tuxworth’s performance as the older of the two children, Little Medea, so bold and poignant, that it’s difficult to forget this fierce, knotty and haunting version of the story, or to shake off its atmosphere of gathering terror and gloom.
Since the story is told by Little Medea, we have to believe in an alternative happy ending that she outlines, involving amiable divorce, and trips to burger restaurants on Sunday afternoons. We’re haunted, though, by her dream or premonition of another ending, involving oceans of blood, and a mother finally driven by betrayal to the most terrible violence of all; and it’s the essence of this fascinating version of Medea – powered by a fine score composed and performed live by John Kielty – that it leaves us poised between these two possible endings, in that emotional no-man’s land between common sense and primal passion now inhabited by so many broken families, across the western world.
Until 29 August