A gothic chorus softly sings and chants. It’s dark and ominous, there is a large circle of candles at various stages of annihilation, and inside the circle a heavy oak table supports a massive candelabra that looks like it is crafted from an imploded papasan chair.
Medea (Christen O’Leary) enters the circle and begins her quiet, controlled meltdown by winding herself around the inside of the circle, coiling herself around her husband’s betrayal until she has gone too far to unwind her dreadful destiny.
Writer, Suzie Miller, takes on Euripides infamous tale of a woman scorned and promises to raise Medea above the ranks of deranged jealousy and tilt a feminist read against it. “In this version, Medea does not hover a wild and terrifying beast but grasps ownership of her actions and her power…”
Christen O’Leary is a calculating Medea who restrains her passion underneath with an almost psychopathic obsession of enacting revenge on her disloyal husband Jason (Damien Cassidy) but cracks appear in her simmering spite that reveal a soul tortured, the woman driven – by her own deeds no less – to save her children by murdering them herself.
O’Leary’s absorption by her character is complete, each line of dialogue physically rendered on her small frame. She is perfect and believable. Jason of this version however is a weak and diluted image of the Argonaut, flailing between two women competing less for his love than for an all-consuming power over him and it is perhaps the emasculation of Jason that lends to the ‘feminist’ claim of this read, alluding to the fact that all he has, is on the back of Medea’s murderous deeds, but it doesn’t quite sit well to see an Argonaut so pathetic and it could be argued that ideologies are so conflicted with-in this small piece of the entire myth that it is not possible to raise one above the other.
Damien Cassidy’s performance shines in the final scene where learning of the death of his children he is subjugated to Medea both by her physical positioning and he altering his own as he almost melts into the floor with desperate despair. Medea here has won, or has she?
Deftly directed by Todd McDonald, the strength in this version of the often performed tragedy is the dark, foreboding set design by Sarah Winter and the use of The Australian Voices as the sombre, chanting Chorus. Miller’s Medea is an extremely enjoyable three hander (Helen Christinson easily doubles as Galuce and the Nurse) and played La Boite’s Roundhouse until June 20.
Season now closed.