Review: Medea, Gate Theatre

“Love makes you do the strangest things, sometimes”

Won’t somebody think of the children? In fact, that’s exactly what’s writer/director Anne-Louise Sarks and co-writer Kate Mulvany have done with their version of Medea, first seen at the Belvoir, Sydney a couple of years ago. Their spin – and a spin is needed here in London, given that Rachel Cusk’s adaptation of the play has only just closed at the Almeida – is to retell Euripides’ tragedy through the eyes of Medea’s two sons.

It’s an innovative approach and one that pays great dividends in Sarks’ production. Played out in real time at just over an hour, we first meet Leon and Jasper as their mother locks them in their bedroom before going downstairs to argue with their father. To pass the time, they bicker and play games, ominously focused on death and violence, and tiptoe delicately around their limited understanding of the strangeness of their situation. Continue reading “Review: Medea, Gate Theatre”

Review: The Distance, Orange Tree

“You’ve more chance of survival if you stay put”

Paul Miller’s subtle reinvention of the Orange Tree continues apace with Deborah Bruce’s The Distance, an exploration of a more complex side to parenting and friendship that is challenged when one of their group suddenly returns from Australia. Bea emigrated there to get married and have two beautiful kids but she’s turned up on best friend Kate’s Sussex doorstep alone and with their other good friend Alex also there to lend support, they to sort out Bea’s life for her, little suspecting what it is that Bea has actually done. Truth be told, I wasn’t the hugest fan of Bruce’s first play Godchild which premiered downstairs at Hampstead last year but the chance to see Helen Baxendale return to the stage tempted me over to Richmond.

There’s much to appreciate in the amusing and frank way Bruce depicts how parenthood, and different experiences thereof, affects the tight bonds of friendship. The ease with which Baxendale’s Bea, Clare Lawrence-Moody’s Kate and Emma Beattie’s Alex interact with each other is brilliantly portrayed as they bicker and banter and nurture and natter – their lives don’t stop because of Bea’s dilemma, it just has to fit into the tumble of jigsaw pieces that makes up the hustle and bustle of everyday living and so gets added to the ever-growing list of things that need to get sorted. The inclusion of the London riots is a canny move here, not as a focal point for the play but just a backdrop of a world still spinning. Continue reading “Review: The Distance, Orange Tree”

Review: The Odyssey, Derby Theatre

“Where shall we start?”

Homer’s epic poem The Odyssey is a cornerstone of Western literature and so unsurprisingly has endured and thrived as part of our cultural consciousness since the 8th century BC when it was composed. So its tale of soldier Odysseus’ 20 year absence from his home in Ithica due to the 10 years of the Trojan War and then a troublesome 10 year journey back feels an appropriate fit in the centenary year of the Great War, especially given Mike Kenny’s new version and Sarah Brigham’s inspired direction.

For this interpretation digs deep into both the psychological and practical effects of war. The first half asks searching questions about the nature of telling war stories, Odysseus’ recounting of his trials become a meditation on survivor guilt as he revisits decisions made in the heat of combat, the sacrifices he asked of his men, struggling to rationalise the huge losses incurred. And part two turns its view on those left behind and the difficulties they have to face in welcoming back someone who has been unutterably changed by their experiences. Continue reading “Review: The Odyssey, Derby Theatre”