Written by Euripides, adapted by Tom Paulin
Northern Broadsides
Everyman Theatre (23rd-27th February 2010)

Reviewed by Adam Ford

Ancient Greek tragedy meets Irish speech patterns at the Everyman, as Barrie Rutter brings his Northern Broadsides group back to Liverpool for Tom Paulin’s adaptation of Eurupides’ Medea.

The old saying that ‘hell hath no fury like a woman scorned’ is illustrated – for better and worse – in Euripides’ 2,500 year old original. The tragedian clearly had sympathy for females abused by men in a patriarchal society, but the eponymous lead character goes much too far to retain the audience’s support, or stay believable. As a result, the play definitely has a sexist flavour, even as it rails against inequality.

Medea (here played by Nina Kristofferson) is a non-Greek ‘barbarian’, married to Jason (Andrew Pollard) of the Golden Fleece and the Argonauts fame. When Jason leaves Medea for the higher status daughter of King Creon (the monarch being played by Rutter), the lead character plots her vicious and violent revenge.

Kristofferson is often frighteningly convincing in her malevolence scheming, during which she she swings from shouting to quiet vulnerability. Pollard – an understudy who stepped into the role very recently – definitely merits future star billing, delivering a subtle and nuanced performance. As usual with Northern Broadsides, there is a contemporary musical accompaniment, and the blues rendering of the traditional Greek ‘Chorus’ role works very well.

However, the play has a fatal flaw. The extent of the scheming does not ring true. Very few scorned women would go as far as Medea, and Euripides failed to show why she should be such an exception. As a result, the impact is lost, and so the audience left thoroughly entertained yes, but not much the wiser about what it is to be human, now or in classical antiquity.

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