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A Lament for Medea

Rating: 3 out of 5 stars
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This devised piece by Zecora Ura and Urban Dolls Project takes a poetic and theatrically unique approach to the tragedy of a wife scorned: audience members sit barefoot in a pool of water as the actors perform this ritualistic play. But although ambitious staging has never been a problem for these collaborators – their previous foray into myth being the six-hour all night epic Hotel Medea - this 40-minute sprint, although visually arresting, feels slight and lacking in depth.

The preamble takes an inordinate amount of time: after depositing our shoes and socks, we are kept waiting in an ante-room to be led by Medea’s maid (apparently interrupted while chopping onions), slowly and with an air of unnecessary mystery, into the dark pool where we sit in the gloom, ankle deep in water with an array children’s toys floating by.

Medea herself sits stricken and wheelchair-bound. The space is the recess of her mind, her home and her children’s playground. At points, a poetic back and forth strikes up between Medea and her maid and a three-person chorus takes on the roles of menacing interrogators and unscrupulous paparazzi. They take pictures of a battered and bruised Medea, her body writhing and her speech verging on nonsense. The feeling throughout is that of a cultic ceremony.

However, for all its interesting elements and idiosyncratic staging, A Lament doesn’t give a particularly fresh insight, either dramatically or psychologically, into the Medea myth. Medea is periodically racked by doubts, anger, regrets, hatred and depression, and all in a short space of time, but these tumults, though admirably expressed, don’t connect well. A shared feeling of cold feet doesn’t amount to a shared emotional feeling – this device becomes more of a distraction than a connection.

Overall the work strains for a poetic effect it never truly attains and while one would expect a play that sets out to probe an unhinged and battered mind to trade on a certain amount of incomprehensibility, this is not balanced out by the theatrical experience. We are left with a moderately impressive spectacle; interesting in its conception, this show just about saves itself from drowning.

- Femi Fola


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