Both Northern Broadsides and Tom Paulin have reputations for crafting fiery, emotive works that fully captivate their audiences. Paulin’s new version of Euripides’ tragedy Medea is a perfect vehicle for their component talents.
The action revolves around Jason’s scorned wife Medea, who followed him from her home land of Colchis where he captured the Golden Fleece. After marriage and bearing him children, Jason chooses to abandon her and take Glauce, the daughter of King Creon as his wife, arguing that he cannot turn down the chance of a royal marriage for the barbarian Medea.
After being banished by Creon, Medea is understandably furious and swears vengeance on Jason, Glauce and Creon with dire consequences. Nina Kristofferson as Medea puts in a performance of such powerful vitriol that any would-be philanderer in the audience will be sleeping with one eye open for the foreseeable future.
Andrew Pollard as Jason provides the perfect foil as Medea’s estranged husband and the potent dynamic of the pair’s differences was entirely believable. The chorus of Barbara Hockaday, Michelle Hardwick and Heather Phoenix provides a seamless mediation between the two warring sides. Paulin’s choice of the northern vernacular for all roles except the nurse and Medea subtly highlighted Medea’s feelings of total isolation.
Medea’s hatred for Jason and his new family gathers pace throughout the tale and despite the attempts of Fine Time Fontayne as Aegeus to pacify her and offer sanctuary in Athens, her mood becomes more murderous. Kristofferson’s portrayal of Medea’s emotionally torn soliloquy is delivered with compelling passion as she makes her final decision to seek vengeance.
Cleo Sylvestre as the nurse provides the occasional light-hearted moment amongst all the angst and grief, raising a titter amongst the appreciative audience. Those keeping a keen eye out should notice director Barrie Rutter moonlighting as Creon in a pivotal – but brief – role.
The tragic events are framed by an impressive set from designer Emma Wee. A striking centrepiece influenced by chariots of war and the skeletal oars of Viking longboats, teamed with the emergence blood-red stained stage as the gripping conclusion nears, make Medea a visual spectacle too.
This brutal tale won’t be to everyone’s taste, and Medea’s refusal to repent transfers a sense of empathy towards Jason that the character scarcely merits. This is a minor complaint though, and should not detract from an all round vibrant display from the cast, which under the skilled direction of Barrie Rutter, offers an outstanding performance that holds the audience captive to the last.