Medea Electronica, Ovalhouse

by guest critic Maeve Campbell

Two months in, and already ‘gaslighting’ appears to be the word of the year. Both Trump and Weinstein, who are often cast as toxically masculine villains in the press, have been accused of implementing such misdirection and manipulation toward their female accusers.

Medea Electronica runs with this idea, casting Jason as Medea’s gas-lighter, and relocating the Greek tragedy to 1980s British suburbia. Maella Faye performs her Medea to a synth backing, playing against a cast of eerie disembodied recorded voices. There is a touch of BBC radio play to the voice acting employed, but this effectively jars against the still, thoughtfulness of the performance, particularly in the early portions of the show. This stillness unravels as Medea’s sanity does.

Atmospheric, synth-backed ballads pepper the piece. The song lyrics are inconsistently poetic, sometimes shakily constructed. But, the music is subtly produced, and beautifully, simply sung by Faye.

There are, however, some major issues in the thematic content of the piece, specifically in its plot diversions from the constantly performed and studied tragedy. The 1980s setting was under-developed and seems like an excuse to justify synthesisers. Ideas
about domestic spaces as female prisons are clear with Medea performing the dutiful housewife. Yet, these ideas don’t just exist in the past, and female domestic spaces are not radically different. If Pecho Mama had been brave enough to play in a contemporary
setting, the show would have more impact. Also, a new twist in Jason’s narrative is quite problematic – he only exists as a spectral voice, and his impetus not properly explored.

There are moments of real beauty in this show – a striking final image stands out. But it’s messily arranged and as it gets more eccentric, the momentum drops. Like many recent Medea revivals, Pecho Mama have tried to make the audience understand Medea’s actions, but here, like with others, they fail in articulating this huge moment in the play. There is real promise in much of the show’s material though, and with a good dramaturgical clean-up it could be really special.

Medea Electronica runs through 10 February.

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