Medea in the Amphitheatre, Guildhall Art Gallery 13 March

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medea

Still from rehearsal video gives some idea of the proceedings

Let’s be practical here.  To start off with, you want the entrance on Basinghall Street, and I think you need to arrive early to get a good seat either right at the front or in the banked seating at the back.  Actually I managed the latter even though I did not arrive early and hence or otherwise did not encounter any programme-buying opportunities, although a few people in the audience had them.

Oh yes, the seating is not amphitheatre-like at all, but long and narrow like an emaciated church.  And in my section at the back, a young woman spectator was telling her friend about an elaborate plan for revenge on a man…she wasn’t a plant either…

As everyone knows, this was a production of Medea using original performance practice as far as possible, even if not on the same scale, as a very thoughtful essay on the event website points out.  So we had masks, an all-male cast, the chorus singing to the accompaniment of a solo flute.  Sometimes it was just interesting in an antiquarian kind of way, sometimes you felt this is the way it was meant to be as you felt something of the power of Greek tragedy.  Perhaps this was particularly the case with Medea, where you felt the male will and intellect trapped behind the white woman’s mask.  The actor here delivered his lines with an effective dying fall, but not so you could always make them out at the back–in contrast to Jason, who was always audible and never convincing, just as a Jason is meant to be.

But there was so much that worked much better than it normally does.  The stylised acting gave due gravity and spacing to the action, the chorus worked very well–their excursions up the aisle were especially effective–and the general reflections on life and fate for once seemed to be organically connected with the action.

We say:  well done to all concerned…

And I’m well impressed by Sophie Richards, who not only brought this enterprise into being, but also provided a pretty damn good translation.

See here for what I know of other Greek plays in London.

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