When marriages break up through the dalliance of a husband, tragedies often follow, with a resultant nightmare for the errant spouse, the wife killing their children and often herself.
Though this could be a modern tale, Euripides wrote such a heart-rending story 2,500 years ago.
In Northern Broadsides’ version by acclaimed poet Tom Paulin at the Liverpool Everyman, we see an extremely strong Medea in Nina Kristofferson. She is black, beautiful, and heroic. Nina is hardly ever off stage and she gives a mesmerizing performance. Her hurt is tangible, her anger and gall physical. She moves with grace, and her facial contortions tell a tale of guile and scheming.
For this woman, one of the strongest female Greek characters, has been truly provoked, not only by her husband Jason (Andrew Pollard), who has taken a second wife, a princess, but also by the father, King Creon (Barrie Rutter) who banishes her from the land. For a ‘foreign’ wife who has given up all to come to Corinth, having killed to help Jason gain the Golden Fleece, she is now without a country, a woman totally alone.
She decides to kill her children so that Jason ‘might die of grief’. It is her one and -only way of getting true revenge. She also kills his bride-to-be by sending a poisoned gown and golden crown. The gut-wrenching details of the death are relayed by a messenger telling how the dress eats into her flesh, whilst the crown streamed with wild flame, becoming welded to her head.
The Chorus in this production, Michelle Hardwick, Barbara Hockaday, and Heather Phoenix, have lovely mellow voices, when speaking or singing. However, they also play harmonicas, drums, sax and keyboard. At times the loud bangs and clashing of cymbals by the players, and Medea herself, helps to lift the heaviness of the tale, but in other places the ‘music’ is incongruous. Especially strange is the bluesy interlude when Medea bursts into a sort of Negro spiritual.
Paulin’s passionate script is enthralling and spellbinding, especially when articulated by Kristofferson, an actress of true talent.
The set is simple, yet evocative featuring a large wrecked crown suitably depicting a ruined home, wrapped around with Golden Fleece. The ‘crown’ changes swiftly to a chariot for Medea’s final escape after her murderous exploits, her character literally holding the high ground whilst a distraught Jason lies before her. For a play of this period Medea’s strength is that she is able to flee without retribution from either men or the gods. Perhaps that is why Euripides was only given a bronze in a 431 competition amongst distinguished playwrights of his day. But this is a strong production and well worth seeing. I would award it a well-deserved gold any day.