The collaboration between the Gate and Rupert Goold’s Headlong Theatre is driving up an experimental cul de sac. I was interested but unimpressed by Chris Goode’s …Sisters last year, but Dylan Tighe’s Medea/Medea is an almost intolerable mish mash of badly digested, old-fashioned avant-garde clichés.
The director’s voice-over is a constant on a stage shot through a black gauze screen where Medea is draped in black veils, the king tackles a boiled egg and Jason’s new wife, Glauce, sits naked with her back to us. Jason is riding a hobby horse as well as Glauce.
The mostly unintelligible soundtrack has a constant spray of anti-fascist speeches, Churchillian rhetoric, bits of Roland Barthes, screeching birdsong and frequent use of dread words like “semiotics,” and a barrage of meaningless saws such as “No art of translation can render the Medea myth real,” and “Every regime has its favourite art form.”
Medea herself (Helen Schoene) goes about her revenge business in slow motion while Glauce (Aine Stapleton) equally slowly pulls on her tights having walked round the stage naked. The doomed children are represented by large dolls suspended on a scenic wall alongside a budgerigar cage and a variety of indeterminate props, but they also appear for real.
King Creon is played by Raad Rawi as a man disembodied from his own voice and finally draped in a Union Jack, while Richard Pepple’s military Jason rides his horse through the auditorium as though on his way to Banbury Cross; for some reason he brandishes the EU flag before suddenly taking up boxing, presumably because he’s become saddle-sore.
It’s all like some terrible joke spoof of how to make Euripides trivial, how to replace great drama with bad art, and how to try and look avant garde when there’s nothing going on inside your head or your heart. I will only say this: it’s not quite as boring as the Helen Mirren Phedre at the National.
Is Medea making a salad, or a bomb, in the kitchen? Pop goes the answer. Then a birdcage catches fire – with a pretend budgie inside. The music is by Sean Og, the design by Sarah Bacon: Og and Bacon for this barmy breakfast, and a dog’s dinner of a show.