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 The Theatreguide.London Review

Gate Theatre Summer 2009

Here are some of the things that happen during Dylan Tighe's adaptation of Medea for Headlong Theatre.

On a TV screen a lecturer offers a semiotic definition of myth. Onstage a woman gargle-sings with her face in a bowl of water. A naked lady combs her hair.

The fishbowl woman recites some Greek in a flat, affect-less voice while supertitles translate. A man puts down his Guardian to lecture on Britishness. The naked lady puts on her clothes, takes some off, and then puts them on again. Another TV screen shows some KY jelly.

The Greek woman mixes up some soap powder in a blender, with a bag over her head. A soldier marches around, and occasionally rides a wooden horse. The TV lectures us on cultural fascism and the bourgeois nature of myth.

A recording of Winston Churchill is played and jumbled. There's a smoke machine.

Everything happens very, v-e-r-y slowly, and frequently in the dark.

And did I mention the exploding horse?

Those who know the Medea story may be able to piece out that, in some mangled way, the Greek-speaking woman is Medea, the soldier Jason and the sometimes-naked lady his princess, and that in some very, very mangled way Tighe is attempting to make a connection between Medea's alien status and modern immigration issues.

But just what the adapter-director believes is being added to or illuminated about the story remains opaque. For an artist as steeped in semiotics as he, it is odd that he does not realise that the whole premise of signs and symbols is shared - not private - meanings.

A digital time stamp on the TV counts off the seconds as they pass. Since we were told on entering exactly how long the play would be, we can sit there constantly aware of how very much more there is yet to go.

It is all so very 1960s.

Gerald Berkowitz

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Review -  Medea/Medea - Gate Theatre 2009

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