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A CurtainUp London Review
In this modern dress production, the interior of Medea's house that she once shared with Jason (Justin Salinger) looks like the foyer at the Barbican with its oversized pillars and stainless steel bannisters. Enter the chorus of women. They dance with dolls as if the dolls are babies, these well dressed women, who swing the "babies" and talk like women's magazines.
There is no support for Medea, not from her nurse or tutor, nor from the chorus who gossip, revelling in the misfortune of others. Medea looks magnificent, strong, dark eye makeup emphasizing the width of her eyes and her high cheekbones. She looks angry.
We hear Jason's voice, on the phone or the intercom? He is trying to iron out the details of the divorce, split everything in half, get the house sold and she is furious with him. Enter the king of Corinth, Creon (Andy de la Tour) and in case we don't know who he is, he wears a crown of gold cardboard. Medea's living would be as a writer; the divorce, the writing are parallels with Rachel Cusk's own life, whose new version this is. Creon takes away Medea's driving license and in order to protect "his little girl" Glauce whom Jason is to marry, and discovers that the publisher she works for is owned by him and so he can cut off her only source of income.
Kate Fleetwood is immensely affecting as the tortured wife and Justin Salinger hits the easier note as Jason, impatient to move on and insisting on selling the house his children live in. Writer Aegeus is portrayed as Medea's gay friend and rescuer but things appear to be complicated by his unseen boyfriend Jorge.
The house opens up to a sky and clouds, first blue and green and lastly blood red.
From having made a strong start, the ending of the plays flounders when this becomes more about novelist Rachel Cusk than Medea. We are asked to believe that her sons go to stay the weekend with Jason and Grauce, bearing the pearl choker that was once Jason's mother's, lock themselves in their room and take overdoses of pain killers. This was Cusk's decision not Rupert Goold's as she didn't believe a modern woman would kill her children. It's a shame because Kate Fleetwood is perfect in the role.
Is this modern Medea, Medea Lite?
Retold by Tina Packer of Shakespeare & Co.
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